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Over 5000 Cholera Cases Registered In Littoral 

By Joe Dinga Pefok & Walter Wilson Nana — A Ministry of Public Health report has shown that Littoral Region recorded some 5463 persons infected by cholera last year, with a bulk of the cases registered in Douala.

According to the report, 105 deaths were registered in the Littoral as a result of the cholera epidemic in 2011, with 33 cases entering the year 2012 under treatment.

These disturbing statistics were revealed at a ceremony which held at ‘Salle des Fetes’ Akwa, Douala, on June 4, to launch the 2012 sensitization campaign for the fight against cholera in the Littoral Region. The ceremony was attended among others by the Country Representative of the World Health Organisation, WHO, and was presided over by the Secretary of State in the Ministry of Public Health, Alim Garga Hayatou.

The launching ceremony was preceded by a meeting of the Littoral Regional Technical Committee for the Fight against Cholera, which is headed by the Governor, Joseph Beti Assomou. Alim Hayatou, like other speakers, emphasised that cholera is dead but preventable.

He asserted that the population can prevent cholera epidemic by strictly respecting basic hygiene and sanitation rules like keeping a clean environment, drinking only purified water, properly washing fruits and vegetables before eating, and regularly washing their hands especially after visiting the toilet. Members of the public, who depend on wells for drinking water, were advised to see that these wells are properly located, properly constructed and also properly taken care of.

Different speakers also sensitised the population on the symptoms of cholera which include diarrhoea, frequent vomiting and stomach pains, among others. The population was urged to rush to the nearest centre that handles cholera cases for a test, once they notice these symptoms. They were also reminded that in case of cholera, treatment remains free in all public hospitals that handle these cases. 

Talking about prevention, Hayatou explained that the sensitisation campaign was not an alarm signal but rather, it is in line with the wisdom that prevention is better than cure. Meanwhile, health officials were unanimous that the main source of the frequent outbreak of cholera in Douala is the poor quality of drinking water.

It should be noted that many inhabitants of Douala do not have access to pipe-borne water. Many people in Douala are, therefore, often forced to depend on wells for drinking water, which wells are poorly located for want of space, and are not properly taken care of.

In 2010 and 2011, officials of the technical committee for the fight against cholera reported that many poorly located and poorly constructed toilets especially in the slum areas were flooded by rain water.

They observed that the contents of many of the flooded toilets (open pit toilets), found their way into nearby wells with devastating consequences. As a result of the lack of public taps in many parts of Douala, many inhabitants are forced to buy untreated water from hawkers or from some petty traders operating on roadsides.

Non-stop Fight Against Cholera

Meanwhile, the Secretary General in the Southwest Governor’s office, Handerson Quetong Kongeh, has called on the people to be on the alert and put up a rigorous fight against cholera.

At an extra-ordinary session of the Southwest Regional Committee for the fight against cholera, that took place in Buea, recently, Kongeh, accompanied by Alim Hayatou, said they are out to sensitise Cameroonians on the relentless fight against cholera. “Cholera is a contagious disease that is present all the time, so, we have to reiterate the need to be on the guard,” he said.

While conveying Government’s message of compassion to the families of the more than 33 persons who lost their lives in the 2010 cholera outbreak in the Region, Kongeh blamed the deaths on negligence on the part of the patients, who failed to make it to the hospital as fast as possible for speedy medical attention. He advised on the continuous culture of cleanliness in the Region as part of the measures to keep cholera at bay.

According to the Secretary General, after the 2004 and 2010 cholera outbreaks in the Southwest Region, the fight must be ongoing. He said that since the November 14, 2010 cholera outbreak in Bolifamba, Mile 16, Buea, the Southwest Regional Delegation of Public Health has been on its feet, with the creation of eight health districts to curb the spread of the disease.

On the cholera situation in the Southwest Region, Dr. Atembeh of the Epidemiological Surveillance Unit in the Delegation of Public Health, said the epidemic has been promoted by food insecurity, cultural factors, population movements, movements of contaminated streams and proximity of cholera communities to cholera free zones.

Buea Mayor, Charles Mbella Moki said his municipality is working hand-in-glove with Government to kick out cholera in Buea and the Southwest Region in general. Hayatou joined the Buea Mayor in lauding the efforts of the health personnel and all the national and international stakeholders in the fight against cholera in the country.

He entreated them to be on the edge of their seats, noting that the risks are still lingering, especially with some of the poor eating habits noticed amongst members of the population, poor housing and sanitary conditions and inadequate healthy habits. Hayatou said the fight against cholera is all about prevention, cleanliness, good eating habits and good health for everybody.

First published in The Post print edition no. 01349

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