The challenge of cholera epidemic

14May 2019
The Guardian
  The challenge of cholera epidemic

  The rainy season still portends gloom for many hapless souls residing in conditions of squalor which continue to spawn all kinds of contagious diseases.

One such killer disease which thrives in dirty environs is cholera which has, over the years, decimated hundreds of people in various cities and towns. Given the degree of environmental decay that has now assumed grave proportions, there are very few areas that have been spared the yearly visitation of this deadly disease. That so many lives continue to be lost every year through cholera outbreaks is a sordid indictment of the local government's failure to tackle the root causes of this lethal bug. Cholera is preventable, and as the old adage goes, prevention is always better than cure.

Government must live up to its responsibility by providing clean water for the people.  But it is not an isolated incident as the World Health Organisation (WHO) says several have the highest burden of the water-borne disease in Africa.  Cholera is life- threatening. If you get contaminated with cholera bacteria and you do not receive appropriate treatment within 24 - 48 hours, you can pass on. Dysentery can give you some time to take care of yourself but not cholera,  said the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) specialist, Drissa Yeo.

Against the background that cholera, which often leads to the infection of the small intestine, is mostly contracted through drinking of contaminated water and eating of waste products, it is a shame that Tanzanians are still afflicted by such a disease in this day and age. But with the systemic collapse of critical institutions and basic health facilities in many of theregions across the country today, it is little surprise that many of our nationals are still dying of the preventable disease common among the poor that has been eliminated in most countries.

It is very sad that for more than four decades, a preventable disease like cholera has been a recurring epidemic in Tanzania and has led to the death of thousands of our people, especially children. While there have been some efforts by the government to deal with the challenge, we have seen a corresponding commitment from the government  where cholera appears to be ravaging citizens the most.

The spread of cholera becomes worse when the environment is not clean; when water system is not treated and when sanitation is not taken seriously. The sad part of it is that in many of our regions, the villagers and rural dwellers are left to rely on streams as the only source of drinking water and there are no provisions for disposing waste. In most cases also, the people even have to rely on stagnant water for washing their clothes and other items. Therefore, since cholera is more prevalent in rural areas, the problem becomes more compounded when and where there are no modern medical facilities to assist in the treatment of the disease.

To the extent that the world has moved ahead of the era where cholera kills citizens, Tanzanian leaders at all levels and healthcare officials must sit up to do the needful. It is a shame that a disease like cholera is still ravaging our people. While we commend the leadership of the Ministry of Health for its proactive stance on curative measures, the authorities in the regions must therefore do more in providing adequate clean water for the citizens, especially for those that are in the rural areas.