By NBF News
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At the last count, over 231 were reported to have died in the recent cholera outbreak in about 11 states in the northern part of Nigeria. It would be recalled that over 260 people died from cholera in four northern states in the last quarter of 2009. Unfortunately, this is not the only disease that has led to the death and/or disability of Nigerians in time past.

Others include poliomyelitis, measles, diarrhea, tuberculosis, pneumonia, food poisoning, malaria, HIV/AIDS and malaria. All these diseases can only be contained if the primary health care system in Nigeria is strong enough. But unfortunately, the primary health care is poorly developed.

In the case of cholera, it is regarded as a notifiable disease both nationally and internationally. This is because the interval between infection and onset of symptoms is only five days, hence, the need to report such cases when recognized to the appropriate health authorities in order to control major outbreak of the disease which is most likely going to spread over a short period of time.

The source of infection which is mainly through water supply, food and flies relates with the health of the environment which is a major aspect of community health. An environment where there is unsafe water supply, inadequate means of excreta disposal, poor waste management, and vector control as well as food supply/hygiene will no doubt impact negatively on the people.

Kudos to the Lagos-State Government for making it a priority to tackle environmental issues head-on. This is not to say that there cannot be a possible outbreak of disease in Lagos but the state government's response to the environmental problems through efficient water supply, proper excreta disposal, regular waste management and well enforced environmental sanitation has reduced the risk of outbreak on its residents.

The challenges of the health sector are daunting, especially in a developing country like Nigeria.

It takes political will and understanding that health which is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing is a fundamental human right of every citizen besides it is the responsibility of governments to ensure proper health of the people. Experts have established that there is a strong correlation between the health of the citizens and development of the country.

It therefore means that when the people are healthy, the country will experience social and economic progress. The high level of poverty in the country can be attributed to the ill-health of most of the citizen.

Take a look at the primary health care system in all the 36 states of the federation including the FCT, you would hardly find the complete elements of essential care present in the existing health centers. This is a point which the citizens are supposed to make the first contact with health services. One cannot close his eyes to governments' effort at reducing the rate of maternal mortality.

Bolaji Samson Aregbeshola,