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January 19, 2021

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Deaths from ‘strange disease’ add to woes of flood-ravaged Edo community

6 min read

Deaths from a ‘strange’ disease have added to the woes of residents of Osomegbe-Ekperi in Estakor Central Local Government Area of Edo State.

The disease, suspected to be cholera but yet to be confirmed by medical experts, is occurring three months after a flood sacked many residents from the community and destroyed farmlands.

The Community's Primary Health Centre
The Community’s Primary Health Centre

Neither the federal nor the state government has done anything to help the residents despite promises of providing relief materials.

The Flood

PREMIUM TIMES had reported the flood disaster at Osomegbe-Ekperi in September 2020. The flood affected many communities in Ekperi clan, creating a serious humanitarian crisis.

Flooding has become an annual menace to the coastal communities, resulting from the overflowing of the River Niger.

The Ekperi communities were victims of the March 2012 floods in Nigeria that killed over 430 people and displaced about 566,466.

The recent one which affected the communities, including Udaba, Anegbete and Osomegbe began on September 29. The waters did not completely recede until the end of October.

Residents fled the affected areas, particularly Osomegbe, to Leventis Farm, a large expanse of land owned by the company and leased out to rice farmers in the area. Because Leventis Farms was not affected, it provided temporary shelter for the displaced communities.

The federal government, through the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), had warned that Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Nasarawa, Kogi, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Rivers and Bayelsa states on the banks of the River Niger would experience severe flooding that September.

Such warnings were usually ignored by rural communities, either because they had nowhere to go or because they had little information about what to do.

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the National Emergency Management Agency(NEMA) in September, the agency said it had taken proactive steps through its zonal officers to provide succour to affected areas.

Ezekiel Manzo, the spokesperson of the agency, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview that the first steps were to evacuate people from the affected areas and provide them with basic needs.

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Also, the then Edo State Commissioner for Environment, Alex Aleije, said Governor Godwin Obaseki would take the necessary steps to alleviate the sufferings of the communities.

Abandoned to Epidemics

PREMIUM TIMES gathered that despite the promise by both the state and federal government agencies, none of them has shown up at the communities.

After the water receded and the residents returned to their homes, the government agencies promised to fumigate the town to forestall an outbreak of disease. But they never carried out the fumigation.

The Onoghie, who is the traditional ruler of the community, John Musa, spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on the predicament of the community since the flood.

The Onoghie, John Musa

He said no agency has visited the community with relief materials since the flood and the people had been abandoned to their pains.

“We have not received anything. They have not sent any message to me. They also did not do any enumeration of the affected areas,” Mr Musa said.

“Even the fumigation they promised, nothing has been done about it.”

‘Strange Disease’

Mr Musa said since the floods receded in November, a “strange” sickness had been infecting the residents of the community. According to him, they have not been able to identify the disease.

“Every day we are recording deaths but we don’t know the cause,” the traditional ruler said.

He said about 15 persons had died from the disease.

Health Official Speaks

A Community Health Extension Worker (CHEW) attached to the community’s Primary Health Centre, Faith Musa, said the infection was on the increase.

Faith Musa

She said they had been treating the patients with the available drugs, but the caseload was becoming too high for the health centre to handle.

“The common signs we are seeing are of malaria and diarrhoea and other infections,” she said. “The common diseases here are diarrhoea and malaria because of the bad water and the fact that the area is prone to mosquitoes.

“I think it (the strange disease) has to do with cholera because of the bad water people are drinking. The children are having diarrhoea.

“We have lost six persons in the last four weeks.

“Some of the patients don’t come early, maybe because the health centre is far from them. But they come when the situation has become very serious and we sometimes refer such cases to the general hospital.”

She said a report has been made to the health authorities, but help was yet to come for the communities.

“They (health authorities) are aware, but they have not done anything. I have to manage what I have.”

She said she had some anti-malaria drugs and bought oral rehydration solution drugs which she administers on dehydrated children.

Mrs Musa said the drugs are effective but are not enough.

ALSO READ: As Nigeria records more deaths from ‘strange disease’ coronavirus infections rise

“We need the attention of the government and NGOs to help us,” she said. “Since we had the flood, we were expecting the government to provide us drugs and other relief materials, but they did not come.

“Even the fumigation they said they would do, they have not done it and we have been left to suffer the problems. Going to buy drugs in urban centres is difficult because of the bad roads.”

She said the community does not have potable water, which had worsened the health situation.

Government Response

The Secretary to Estakor Central Local Government, Ibrahim Jugget, however, said the local government had not received the report of the epidemic. He said the health centre in the community has not forwarded the report.

He promised to make enquiries and ensure that action was taken to rescue the situation.

On its part, NEMA said relief materials were available but the security situation in the area had hindered the distribution to the people.

The agency’s spokesperson, Mr Manzo, said information from the zonal office in Edo State showed that the security situation in the affected area would put the lives of the staff at risk.

He said once the security situation allowed, the materials would be delivered.

Governor Obaseki is yet to appoint commissioners since his reelection last year.

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