Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate
HealthTop Story

Housing, transport, economic reforms critical to containing cholera outbreak – FG

Instead, Pate advocated a comprehensive strategy that acknowledges the social determinants of health and, as a result, demands the implementation of effective public policies that provide essential social safety nets to protect and support vulnerable populations, particularly the poor and disadvantaged.

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The Federal Government has declared that simultaneously addressing the interconnected issues of inadequate housing, transportation, and economic struggles, which are fueling the spread of the disease, is the only effective way to address the nation’s cholera outbreak.

Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, shared his insights on the country’s health challenges during an interview on Channels Television on Wednesday.

He highlighted the need for a comprehensive approach to address the root causes of the cholera outbreak.

Pate called for a multi-sectorial approach to forestall the outbreak of infectious diseases like cholera, typhoid fever, and tuberculosis.

According to him, a solely biomedical approach, focused on treatment, is insufficient.

Instead, Pate advocated a comprehensive strategy that acknowledges the social determinants of health and, as a result, demands the implementation of effective public policies that provide essential social safety nets to protect and support vulnerable populations, particularly the poor and disadvantaged.

He said: “There are many diseases that are socially determined; they are diseases of largely the population that are vulnerable and poor who live in inadequate housing, with low sanitation, who don’t have enough food, who are malnourished, or whose occupation exposes them to certain disease conditions.

“So, to address population health, there is the biomedical, which are certain diseases that we handle, but there are some that go beyond that and are multi-sectorial in terms of the determinants of why those diseases occur and how to respond to them.

“At the end of the day, we need to grow our economy; we need to translate that growth into incomes for households; we need to also build infrastructure, the base for the urbanisation that we are seeing, so that people will have good housing, good nutrition, safe spaces, and proper mental health. In addition to access to health facilities, they can afford to get proper mental services.

“So, health is one thing that is not just a biomedical issue; there is health in almost all public policies, whether it is on housing, transportation, agriculture, environment, youths, or even the gender dimension of it to ensure women are not left behind, and there are vulnerabilities that will have to be addressed through social protection mechanisms to ensure that there are safety nets for those who are left behind.

“It’s the whole of government and the whole of society’s efforts that are necessary to improve the health and wellbeing of any population.”

Pate announced that the FG has allocated the necessary resources and taken proactive measures to combat the cholera outbreak, preventing its further spread and mitigating its impact on the population.

He revealed that a specialized task force, established through the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), has been engaged to collaborate with state governments in implementing effective strategies to curb the spread of cholera, provide medical treatment to those affected, and enhance the national response to the outbreak.

He said: “We had anticipated the seasonal outbreak, and months ago, the President approved contingency financing for the NCDC, and that is what has been used so far, in addition to technical financing. The state also has a role to play in releasing its own funding.

“31 states are affected, 107 local governments are affected,” the health minister said, adding that about 1,500 cholera cases have been recorded so far in the country.”

Pate assured Nigerian citizens that the government is taking all necessary steps to contain the cholera outbreak and is confident in significantly curtailing the disease’s spread to prevent further escalation to additional states and local government areas.

He said: “We have to deal with open defecation. So that faeces will not come into contact with food or water.

“The cholera outbreak is part of a global phenomenon. Cholera is a public health crisis and a disease that comes within the contact of contamination of food, water, poor sanitation, developmental challenges, and deficit in infrastructure. Open defecation prevalent in many parts of the country is fueling the outbreak.”

The minister urged for a collaborative effort across various sectors and stakeholders to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases in Nigeria, emphasizing the need for a unified and comprehensive approach to address the health challenges facing the nation.

He stated that all stakeholders, including citizens and federal, state, and local government administrations, have preventive roles in ensuring waste management and hygiene sanitation, with the goal of reducing the prevalence of this issue in the future.

Pate said: “It is not only cholera, by the way; there are other infectious diseases like typhoid fever, tuberculosis, and others. So as we improve the physical infrastructure, the urbanization and the utilities that are backing that up, we should begin to see a healthier population.”

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