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Officials fear cholera resurgence in north

Floods in northern Nigeria 2009
(Hilary Uguru/IRIN)

Floods in northern Nigeria’s Adamawa state have left over 2,000 people displaced, many of them with no access to clean drinking water, leaving officials worried about a potential cholera outbreak.

Five districts – Fufore, Demsa, Yola North, Yola South and Numan – were flooded in August and early September, when the River Lagdo burst its banks, according to the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Demsa and Fufore districts, along with nearby Maiha, were hit with a cholera outbreak in August and September; the illness killed 70 people out of over 300 infected, according to local government official Yahaya Hamman-Julde.

Adamawa state health commissioner Zainab Baba Kwanci says the outbreak was caused by floodwaters contaminating wells used for drinking water.

"We are really worried about the possibility of the resurgence of the [cholera] outbreak in flood-hit areas and our priority now is averting that looming disaster," Aliyu Sambo, head of NEMA in the northeast, told IRIN.

There is not enough clean water for the displaced, most of whom are living in temporary shelters or in local schools, according to NEMA.

"We are doing our best to provide clean water for the displaced but our efforts are limited to a few trucks a day so people have to [turn to] unsafe water [to meet their needs]," Sambo said. "It is an emergency situation and there is no time to sink boreholes, so we have to make do with what we can provide.”

Nigeria is among four West African countries where less than half of the population can access safe drinking water, according to the UN.

Health commissioner Kwanci said a health worker strike over pay conditions across the state worsened the recent cholera outbreak, as many of the victims were unable to seek medical care.

Medical workers across the state began an indefinite strike on 25 June to protest the state government’s 9 June suspension of an improved salary structure.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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