Tuesday, February 18, 2014

EXCLUSIVE INVESTIGATION: How Misgovernance Caused Deadly Cholera Outbreak In Benue


The five-month-old strike embarked on by the contractor handling the Katsina-Ala and Otubi water works in Benue State, has caused water scarcity in the state.
Photo: Government may be responsible for Benue cholera outbreak
As a result of water scarcity there started a cholera epidemic leading to the death of at least eight people, according to official estimates.
Investigations by the News Agency of Nigeria showed that the people of Benue North and South Senatorial districts were the worst hit.
It has been learnt that the contractor handling the project stopped supplying water on grounds of contractual breaches in October 2013.
The state government had signed a two-year contract with CGC Nigeria Limited for the maintenance, operation and training of staff of the ministry in 2012.
A reliable source in the Ministry of Water Resources said that the government had not paid the contractor, which triggered a strike.
Scarcity leads to cholera epidemic
The Chairman of Otukpo Local Government Council, Innocent Onuh, had earlier blamed the outbreak of cholera epidemic in the council on the lack of potable water.
The official said in a telephone interview: "For the past one month, Otukpo residents do not have potable water; the water works is no longer pumping water because the staff had refused to work. The workers have embarked on strike to press for the payment of salaries. As a result of this, cholera epidemic has hit the local government; people are dying and over 20 children are currently on admission at the General Hospital, Otukpo.
Mr. Onuh said that serious work is being carried out to stem the disease, adding that the publicity around the town has also been intensified (people are urged to boil water before drinking it).
The Benue State Government had confirmed the outbreak of cholera in Makurdi that had already claimed eight lives in addition to 240 others diagnosed with the disease in February.
A cholera outbreak had been reported in Wadata, one of the settlements in the state capital, Makurdi.
The Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Orduen Abunku, said this on Friday, during an interactive session with newsmen in Makurdi.
"A total number of 240 cases have been reported while eight deaths are recorded so far. The trend is gradually reducing as very few cases were reported yesterday and this morning. We are collaborating with all the necessary agencies to mitigate the spread of the disease," he said.
The clean water, which the government has failed to provide, has now become a source of worry for residents. Residents lament A cross-section of Benue residents have appealed to the state government to come to their aid, to prevent deaths and the possible outbreak of the disease in other areas.
Residents lamented the continued spread of the epidemic among the villages in the council and lack of potable water supply.
Government officials in blame game
In his reaction, the acting Commissioner for Water Resources in Benue, George Edeh, said the responsibility of the ministry was to build water plants and not to operate it, adding that "any questions about water scarcity should be directed at the water board".
The General Manager, Benue State Water Board, Michael Dzungu, however, said that the two controversial water plants were yet to be handed over to the board. 

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