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Opinions of Sunday, 15 September 2019

Columnist: Edward Williams

The Cholera Neighborhood

File photo File photo

The rain begins to set in Kofikrom, a village in the outskirt of the Eastern side of the hills on the globe and Serwaa, her household and the entire community are not only worried about how they will salvage their property and save lives.

They are also restless about how many lives that are likely to be lost if the catastrophe of cholera outbreak occur just like the past three consecutive years.

Background

Each household in Kofikrom had lost at least a member to the unfriendly and no respecter of person disease, cholera when it broke out in the small village not sparing Nana Agor, the chief of Kofikrom and his household.

Nana Agor had lost his intelligent nine-year old son, Kwame who was a class four pupil of the community’s Kofikrom Basic School and the best student in his class that academic year.

Kwame’s dream of becoming an astronaut halted last year after he and about five children of his age fell victim to cholera and could not receive early treatment because Kofikrom had no health centre to cater for the primary health needs of the community members.

Nana Agor could not hide his tears even though he was told by his kinsmen that "the tears of a warrior are not seen."

He was shaken visibly with the biography of his son as he tried to pick his shattered pieces together to read his last messages to the lifeless intelligent young man lying lifelessly in the wooden casket before the Kofikrom God’s Time Worship centre congregants.

Serwaa on the other hand, had a shock as she was greeted with the sad news of her auntie, Ami, passing that early hour of Tuesday, while she was preparing to join other traders to the city to sell some fresh vegetables and cooking oil to provide food for her family. She had to cancel the trip to visit Ami’s house and help other neighbours to keep the entire place tidy before the delegates Nana Agor sent to the city return with Ami’s only child, Yaaba with other families for funeral preparations.

Serwaa had lost her trip and profits that day and in turn bearing costs of huge sums of money since the market days fall on Tuesdays only and besides, the vegetables won’t look fresh and appealing to her numerous customers. In the city, where they had share of the cholera outbreak, plans are being advanced to see how best it could be minimized, but importantly prevented with the help of residents through education.

The city authorities decided to go to the market on Tuesdays, which remains the busiest market day to educate the market women on cholera and other related diseases associated with bad personal hygiene practices. The city authorities went to the market with health practitioners, survivors from the merciless cholera to give those who escaped its claws the hell experience of cholera.

Every seller was screened and inspected regularly on where they sell and what they sell to customers. Education

Some market women were also encouraged to educate their customers on hygienic practices such as thorough washing of fruits and vegetables and also buying foodstuffs from healthy and clean looking environments. The city authorities also decided to have a back-up team purposely for arresting recalcitrant traders who will violate the health directives during the rainy season and beyond.

Impact of education

Soon, every member became a ‘watchman’ on their fellow to make sure, foodstuffs were well washed or presented before they buy, parents and children made sure fruits are well washed before they eat, their household toilet facilities and rubbish containers are well kept. Nana Agor’s Kofikrom became an example for health practitioners who visit other communities to educate them on basic hygienic practices.

What is cholera?

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium, Vibrio cholerae that can kill within hours if left untreated and researchers have estimated that each year there are 1.3 million to 4.0 million cases of cholera, and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide due to cholera where up to 80 per cent of cases can be successfully treated with oral rehydration solution (ORS). Cholera remains a global threat to public health according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to Ghana Health Service (GHS), a total of 28,975 cholera cases with 243 deaths were reported from 130 out of the 216 districts in all 10 regions of Ghana in 2014, in 2015, 618 cases were recorded with five deaths and more than 150 cholera cases were recorded in the Central Region with no known death recorded in 2016.

Any prevention?

The Service has also provided preventive measures of cholera; washing hands with soap under running water regularly (after visiting the toilet, before eating or feeding a child and before preparing good) and in the absence of soap, use hand-sanitizer/alcohol rub, ash or sand and rinse with safe water. Also, drinking and using safe water, cooking food well, eat it hot, keep it covered, washing fruits and vegetables well before consumption, keeping your kitchen and places where your family bathes and washes clothes clean at all times. As the rains set in, be careful of what you buy and where you buy them. You should also endeavour to check what goes through your gullet at birthday parties, weddings and funerals. Most importantly, let us join hands and pledge to adhere to all good health practices and become community watchdogs to protect ourselves, families and friends from cholera.