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‘My son fell down, his body was hurting and he was vomiting – we took him to hospital and he died the next day’  

3 October 2022
Reading time: 4 minutes

Although there has been a cholera outbreak in 13 local government areas of Borno State, residents of some unofficial internally displaced persons’ camps have not heard about it and one woman was told only once her son fell ill and died in hospital the following day.

RNI reporter Zainab Alhaji Ali visited some community camps in Maiduguri.

Hajjiya Umar said: “I live in Madinatu Community Camp and I had no idea that there was an outbreak of cholera until a few days ago when my 12-year-old son became ill. He fell down and his body was hurting. He began vomiting and we took him to the hospital. After only one day in the hospital he died.”

As she spoke, tears poured down her cheeks as she sobbed.

“I don’t know if anyone else in the camp is infected. The camp is big and now I am afraid of my other children getting infected. Our environment is dirty and there are big pools of stagnant water. The children love to play in the puddles, obviously not realising that they could be infected. As soon as my kids get home from school, I make sure they wash their hands well with soap. I do not allow them to play in the dirty water.

“Last year an organisation came to the camp to make us aware about an outbreak of cholera. But this year no one has come, no members of the government and no local or international non-governmental organisations. We need the government or an NGO to inform us about the outbreak and to tell us how to prevent getting sick. They also need to give us soap and chlorine to help us keep everything clean,” she said.

Goni Ummara from Biafra camp said: “Yes, we heard that the outbreak was in many places. But, so far, no one in our camp has been infected. About two weeks ago, the Save the Children NGO  and the Norwegian Refugee Council came to inform us about the outbreak and told us how to protect ourselves from becoming infected.”

Ummara said there were more than 200 households in the camp and they were protecting themselves by washing their hands frequently and preventing their children from picking up bones on the ground, which they sold to vendors. She said residents were sweeping and cleaning the compound thoroughly. She said they needed more disinfectants to continue to keep the camp clean.

Zainab Isa from Fulatari Community Camp said: “I was not aware that there was an outbreak of cholera this year. But I know that it is caused by a lack of cleanliness, dirty water, or children playing on the dirty ground. No one has come to the camp to warn us about the outbreak.”

Muhammad Abba from Kawar Mailah camp said: “I’m aware of the cholera outbreak. Some people in our camp are infected. Last night we took two people to hospital where they were admitted for treatment. We are all a bit worried now. I don’t know the actual number but more than 10 people have been infected.

“We urgently need help to spray the camp because our toilets are full. Last year when the camp was sprayed no one was infected.”

Doctor Lawi Auta Mshelia, the executive director of the Borno State Primary Health Care Development Agency, said he was only now aware that unofficial camps had not informed about the outbreak. “But now that you [RNI] have told us, we will go and see.”

He said normally the agency sent representatives to go to official and unofficial camps, as well as communities, to inform them if an outbreak occurred so that they would know how to protect themselves. “Today we visited the Muna and Shokari camps. We also went to the cholera treatment centre and the number of infected people was down.”

Mshelia said the agency had sent government staff and some international non-governmental organisations to the Madinatu Camp.

“The government is trying to protect people from the disease, so it has established a committee, and the total number of cases is down compared with last year. We want to remind people to keep their houses and the environment clean, especially toilets, and to wash their hands with soap as frequently as possible.”


About the author

Elvis Mugisha