Cholera Outbreak: UNICEF Warns Of Increased Spread As Children Return To School

Cholera Outbreak: UNICEF Warns Of Increased Spread As Children Return To School
Cholera Outbreak: UNICEF Warns Of Increased Spread As Children Return To School

UNICEF has raised an alarm over the potential outbreak of cholera among schools across Nigeria, as pupils return from their mid-term break and Eid Holiday. Public health authorities are particularly concerned about the rapid spread of this water and food-borne disease within educational institutions unless preemptive measures are swiftly implemented.

According to Celine Lafoucrier, the Chief of UNICEF’s Lagos Field Office, the risk of cholera, caused by the Vibrio cholerae bacterium, looms large in schools. She urges all involved parties to adopt comprehensive safeguards to protect students and prevent any interruption to the educational calendar due to disease outbreaks.

The threat is underscored by data from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), which reports an alarming surge in cholera incidents. Between January 1 and June 11, 2024, over 1,141 suspected and more than 65 confirmed cases have been documented across 96 local government areas in 30 states, resulting in over 30 fatalities. States including Bayelsa, Zamfara, Abia, Cross River, Bauchi, Delta, Katsina, Imo, Nasarawa, and Lagos are identified as significant contributors to the current outbreak.

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Lafoucrier highlighted the vulnerability of children, particularly those under five, to cholera, noting the severe consequences of infection such as malnutrition, stunted growth, and diminished immune response, which further exposes them to other illnesses. She emphasized the “urgent need for improved access to clean water and sanitation in many areas,” pointing out that despite state efforts, the ongoing crisis flags the immediate need for stringent governmental action in ensuring the supply of clean, uncontaminated water to the populace.

Furthermore, the UNICEF official pointed out the indirect impacts of cholera on education, emphasizing that outbreaks often lead to school closures and decreased student attendance due to illness and the necessity of caring for ill family members. Such disruptions significantly hinder the learning and development of children, marking an appeal for urgent steps towards enhancing sanitation and hygiene practices within schools to mitigate the spread of cholera.

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