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Cameroon Face Cholera Outbreak

For the past few months the entire nation has been thrown into a wild psychosis of fear engendered by spread of cholera. Initially identified and circumscribed to parts of the Far-North Region, the invasion of the dreaded disease soon took a wild goose chase posture as health workers and threatened populations fought the best they could to keep it at bay.

Granted, cholera is endemic because it is generally associated with lower-income populations too often unable to ensure the minimum standards of hygiene because of poverty and , sometimes also because of sheer ignorance. It is also an epidemic because of the huge numbers of people that can be affected at the same time. From the above, it is easy to determine what parts of the country are prone to cholera because of the ease in delimiting the boundaries of prosperity and poverty, especially in huge urban agglomerations where features of poverty are manifest. Available statistics also indicate a very low access rate to potable water in the rural areas, making such areas a natural destination for cholera attacks. Decision-makers are also aware of the ignorance of people living in these areas, especially with regard to numerous health risks that haunt them because of a precarious environment that naturally fires up the development of disease. This so because we fully –well know that poverty, ignorance and disease go hand-in-hand.

In Cameroon therefore, it is easy to circumscribe the various zones likely to produce cholera attacks. It is a known fact that several traditional habits in parts of the Far-North virtually promote the development of cholera. Added to these are the usage patterns of water which, in itself is already a very rare commodity. Stories have been told of numerous cases where cattle and humans drink from the same sources of water. These are age-old practices which have only come to be denounced at the time cases of attacks have been reported. The Governor of the Far-North Region has recently signed an order subjecting the obtaining of an official building permit to the initial provision of a certified latrine. This measure was greeted with a lot of relief especially as it came at the peak of a devastating attack. But few citizens also failed to note that these is abundant legislation which seeks not only to prevent potential diseases, but also to promote good hygiene habits in our towns as well as in villages. The issue here is that such legislation has remained in the drawers of policy executors who would rather want to manage crisis with all the fallouts that can come by way of massive financial aid from which many can always find loopholes through which to get huge chunks for themselves to the detriment of those for whom the aid was destined.

On paper, cholera looks like a health risk that can be well managed. The risk zones are well known. The target populations are easy to identify. All the rules of hygiene and sanitation are well known and only need to be applied. The seasons in the various parts of the country when cholera is most likely are also known. So there is absolutely no reason to let cholera surprise the nation as is the case today and to avoid revisiting the hackneyed maxim that a stitch in time saves nine.

The greater powers devolved on local councils in the new decentralized political dispensation are a good augur because of the greater and closer attention health issues should henceforth occupy on the list of priorities of locally-elected officials.

Nkendem FORBINAKE

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