New Telegraph

Ezillo: Ravaged by water-borne diseases

•I treated victims stooling, vomiting uncontrollably –Nurse
•We’ve been drinking contaminated water for 10 years –Residents

Ezillo community in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State is not supposed to lack potable water let alone experience any water-borne disease. This is because that’s where a mega water project that used to supply water to the area and entire Abakaliki, the state capital, is located.

But for 10 years, the water scheme has not been functioning following its vandalism by warlords when the community and Ezza-Ezillio in the area had serious war that claimed hundreds of lives with properties worth billions of naira destroyed. Since then, the Ezillo people have no potable water. Their major source of water is a contaminated Ebonyi River that runs across the community.

The water discoloured and also odour. It is where the people take their bath, wash their clothes and fetch for domestic purposes. Most of them drink the water. There is open defecation in the community and when it rains, it washes the rubbish from the open defecation to the water. This is why the community has continued to experience water-borne diseases especially during the dry season. The community has recently lost nine residents of the area to suspected cholera outbreak. Communities affected by the disease in the local government include: Amaeze, Amaozanu and Ezillo. A resident of the area, Okechukwu Idenyi said: “I led a team consisting of the GM EBRUWASSA and leader of WASH HODs to visit Ezillo Community and interacted with staff of the health centres that treated the patients. I also interacted with President General of Ezillo community and the LGA chairman.

“The villages from which the victims come from are: Amaleze, Obuchiri, Umuozoke, Iyionwe, Ndiagu achi, Amakpa and Amakpa. “The cholera started late November and spiked between December 14 and 15. As at the time we visited, over 47 people, (men, women and children) have been treated. 43 had been discharged and four remaining at Zion Hospital and Maternity Hospital Ezillo. We met four patients who were detained at Zion’s Hospital due to their inability to pay their bills. I advocated to the council Chairman on their behalf and am glad to report that the council Chairman, Hon Obinna, has offset their bill running into over a hundred thousand Naira.

“Though no confirmed mortality at any of the health centres visited, the heads of communities reported mortality of about nine persons due to the inability of the victims to present themselves on time to the hospitals for fear of medical bills. “Every day comes with new report of the outbreak. It has not been contained yet because the communities still practice open defecation and lack access to water. Their major water is the Iyionu stream.

Even the health centres we visited have no WASH facilities. “We need to intervene through Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) and Community Safe Water Plan (CSWP) to prevent future occurrence. The community leaders including the Local Government Chairman are open to support any initiative towards assisting Ishielu LGA, the first LGA to become ODF in Ebonyi State”.

National President Federated Ezillo General Assembly, Daniel Ogbuzuru, told Saturday Telegraph that open defecation as a result of lack of toilet facilities has contributed to the water-borne diseases in the community. He called for construction of toilet facilities and provision of potable water to prevent the diseases. “If it is possible, there should be toilets in the community to avert open defecation which contributes a lot in this cholera outbreak and other water-borne diseases because we know that cholera cannot just come without open defecation and poor water condition. “Scarcity of water has really affected us in this community.

You can see how people are surging into this river. This is just one point out of many points and this is the only source of water right now because of dry season. “You can see people in the river; they bath, they fetch water home for domestic use and many don’t boil the water before drinking it, they just drink the water that way. Some of them believe that what is in water doesn’t kill but they are seeing these days that what is in water kills”, he stated. On his part, the Vice President of the Assembly, Michael Okechi said “we are drinking this dirty river because we have no other water in the community.

During raining season, we always drink rain water but in dry season like this, the only source of water in our community is this Ebonyi River in the community. We no longer have pipe borne water; the Ebonyi River is the only source of water in our community. Some people after fetching the river water boil it before drinking it while some don’t do so before drinking the water. “It is up to 10 years that we stopped having potable water in the community. The Ezillo water scheme that supplies potable water to the community and Abakaliki is no longer functional.

There is only one functional borehole in our local government headquarters and it is only those that are mobile that can go there to fetch water from the borehole. Some other boreholes in the community are no longer functional. There are two non-functional boreholes in Ogbujiri and few other places. “I am saddened because we don’t have potable water.

There are so many diseases that occur as a result of lack of water including cholera but can you prevent someone that is thirsty from drinking the available water? This is why we are having these water-borne diseases in our community. I am begging government to repair the Ezillo water scheme so that we will start having good water; let the water scheme start working so that we will be drinking good water.

“If we have potable water, we will not be drinking the contaminated river water. People defecate around the water and when it rains, it will flush the rubbish into the river. This is why we are having water-borne diseases in this our community. “We are experiencing cholera in this community because of this contaminated water.

If not the grace of God, many people would have died as result of the outbreak of this disease. We are talking about nine deaths now from the outbreak which would have been more than that if not for God. “Our health centres really do well in treating the victims otherwise we would have recorded high causalities. Chairman of our local government has also tried a lot in helping the victims.

He has been visiting the victims in our health centres and paying their hospital bills. He has also procured drugs and kept in the health centres which health workers use in treating the victims”. One of the victims, Esther Edeh, whose husband was first affected by the disease, said “my husband woke up from sleep and started complaining of stomach problem. He immediately started passing out feaces which changed to blood. He fell down and we rushed him to the health centre. “The health workers started treating him. As my husband was being treated, my own started.

I started purging immediately and the health workers started treating me to. I don’t know what caused it, we were told not to be drinking water from Ebonyi River, that it is contaminated. But how can we stop drinking the water when we don’t have any other source of water? We need potable water in this community before we can stop drinking water from Ebonyi River”.

A Nurse who treated some of the victims, Precious Ekwenna, told our correspondent that the health workers had to go into serious research before they were able to know the disease that ravaged the community. She disclosed that during that time the health workers were into the research, the victims were referred to Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki.

Ekwenna said after the research, the workers started treating the victims and that over 15 of them were treated within one week with one death recorded in the health centre. She said “when it all started, we didn’t know what it was. It started two weeks ago and we didn’t know what to do.

When we tried our best, we couldn’t get the right medication against it and we started referring the victims to the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki. We encountered the worst case during the last sit-at-home and we had to board a vehicle because there was no means of taking the patients to the hospital. So, we had to board a vehicle and took the patient to the hospital. “We went into research and discovered the right medication and that is when we started receiving patients and giving treatments and through God’s grace, they have been recovering and many have been discharged. Six had been discharged and they are coming from home to get their treatments without any problem. “We have treated over 15 patients since the outbreak of the disease. Since we stopped referring the victims, we have treated above that.

It’s over one week that we started treating the patients and stopped referring after researching for the right medication. “The worst experience I have encountered while threating the patients is diarrhea. Some will be passing watery stool and vomiting uncontrollably while treating them and they are always very weak before coming to this health centre for treatment.

“It’s only one casualty that we recorded because his people refused to take him to Federal Teaching Hospital Abakaliki when we referred them to that hospital for proper treatment. We told them to take the man to FETHA and they said they are not going anywhere and that was why the man died.

“We have written to the local government to install borehole for us in this hospital because it is this Ebonyi River that is not good that we are using in this health centre. We also need vehicles so that we can easily take any case that is beyond us to FETHA. We have been telling the villagers to always boil the Ebonyi River water before they use it to prevent water-borne diseases. We have also been telling them to ensure personal and environmental hygiene to prevent the diseases”. Chairman of the local government area, Hon. John Onwe, said he had paid the hospital bills of those affected by the disease and procured drugs and supplied to health centres in the community to tackle it. He called on the people of the area to always visit government health facilities to access medical treatment whenever they are challenged by the disease.

Onwe dismissed the insinuation that there are no other sources of waters in the community apart from the contaminated Ebonyi River in the community, saying there are many boreholes drilled in the community which are not working because of the environment (soil) nature which prevents the boreholes from functioning. He said: “The cholera outbreak is currently going down, we have tried our best to stem the situation. Some of the OICs told me that it has reduced. But be that as it may, we don’t want to fold our hands because it is coming down. So, I have asked them to compile the list of drugs they need in the health centres so that I will procure them.

“I have gone round the health centres. I asked them to give me the list of the patients that have been treated and their bills and they gave me the bills. I have cleared all those bills. “My major problem is that they don’t go to government facilities to get the drugs I have bought because of this cholera outbreak because some of them think that there are no drugs there but I have addressed the community, I have addressed the workers in the facilities that in case of any of the cholera thing, they should rush to government health facilities.

As a matter of fact, we tried to publicise it so that people will be aware so that they cannot say that they are not aware. “But thank God the OIC people are reporting that people are coming and they are doing very well by treating and discharging the patients and we have told them that they should not collect money from the patients.

“The issue is not the boreholes, Ezillo people have money to provide potable water even on their own. As matter of fact, the traditional ruler of Ezillo community was able to get his personal borehole but all efforts he made to do in some other places proved abortive. Sometimes, they will check and there will be no water. So, we have this peculiar case in this Ezillo”, Onwe stated.

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