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Lab scientist blames cholera outbreaks on poor WASH practices

By George George Idowu

A leading public health and infectious disease expert, Dr. Casmir Ifeanyi has attributed Nigeria’s current cholera outbreak to inadequate sanitation dismissing claims that the outbreak is linked to seasonal rainfall.

Ifeanyi, who is also the National President of the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), criticized the Nigerian government’s lack of action on water and sanitation issues.

In an interview recently, he emphasized that it is misleading and unscientific to blame the cholera outbreak on the rainy season, noting that outbreaks have occurred outside of the rainy period, such as in Cross River State during November and December 2023.

He highlighted the persistence of disease outbreaks in Nigeria due to systemic failures, particularly the absence of proper water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practices.

He said: “Of the 30 states reported to have the outbreak, how many have a public potable water supply? I can categorically tell you none.”

He stressed the connection between cholera and poor WASH conditions.

Ifeanyi called for urgent improvements in sanitation and hygiene practices, including addressing open defecation, which is widespread across the country.

He also urged the government to strengthen healthcare infrastructure by investing in laboratories at all levels to ensure early diagnosis and treatment of cholera and other diseases.

The expert argued for a robust disease notification system for accurate and timely data collection to track outbreaks effectively.

He lamented that medical laboratories are often overlooked in healthcare reforms, which hampers efforts to combat persistent diseases like cholera.

“We need to build the capacities of laboratories in secondary and tertiary health institutions to routinely diagnose cholera. Without these measures, cholera will remain a recurring problem in Nigeria,” Ifeanyi concluded.



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