Birnin Kebbi — Aguwan dodo Zabar-Mawa is a farming community in Kalgo Local Government Area of Kebbi State. Though the village is surrounded by water, it lacks pipe-borne water, a situation which is sending the villagers to early graves. Our correspondent who was at the village reports that the people of that community are currently battling with gastro enteritis.
It all started when the chief imam of the area, Mohammed Ahmed, 55, performed a spiritual bath on the corpse of one Umar Maikati, who reportedly died after contacting Gastro enteritis.
"I was hale and hearty when they called me as the chief imam of our community to perform spiritual bath for the body of Umar in line with Islamic injunction. As it is our tradition, I performed the ritual, and we took his corpse to the burial ground. Two days later, I started vomiting and stooling excessively. Before, I was rushed to the Hospital. After that, all members of my family numbering eight became infected. Along the line, two of my children lost their lives to the disease, five others were treated and discharged from the isolated camp, but one is still there. I am praying for his quick recovery. Though, I have stopped vomiting and stooling, I am still very weak. We do not how Umar got it but what I did was our tradition here. Whenever somebody dies, it is my duty to bath his corpse in accordance with the teachings of Islam," he said.
The cleric who spoke with Daily Trust, alongside leaders of their community, however, said he has no regrets performing a spiritual bath for Umar's corpse.
"From last week Monday when the outbreak was first reported, over 60 persons contacted the disease and eight of them have died. The disease also killed the wife of an Abuja based construction worker, Abdullahi Aliyu, 47. He said he was in Abuja when a relative called to inform him of the death of his wife, Jumai Abdullahi, 33, days after she contacted the disease" he said.
"My wife left behind our eight children including a-year-old twins she was breast feeding. As I'm lamenting about the death of my wife, I'm praying for my two children who are still at the isolated camp. They contacted this disease that killed their mother last Tuesday," the Abuja based worker said.
When our correspondent visited the camp, where victims were isolated, officials of a foreign based Non Governmental Organisation, Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) were seen attending to patients. The head of the medical team however refused to speak.
"This is a danger zone. You can be infected also. I cannot speak to you, we are here on rescue mission. Only the officials of the state's Ministry of Health can speak to you," he said.
Our correspondent reports that there were many victims of the Gastro enteritis at the center. A female official was sighted attending to a woman, who delivered at the camp on Monday. When our correspondent approached her, she said: "This woman was brought here because she contacted Gastro enteritis but days later, she delivered a baby. Our worry now is that she is not eating and the baby needs breast milk to survive".
Before gaining entrance into the camp, our correspondent was asked to wash his hands with disinfectant, while a certain chemical was sprayed on his leg and shoes by officials of the MSF. No official of the state's Ministry of Health was there at 2.pm on Tuesday during the visit.
Speaking to Daily Trust outside the camp, the leader of the community, Saidu Hakimi, who is 80 years-old, said only God knows the number of people infected by the disease.
"Many of my people have died as a result of this disease including my son. This is the first time we are experiencing this sort of thing. They said it was as a result of contaminated water. Yes it may be because we don't have water here in this village. We go to other villages to get drinking water," he said, urging the state government to come to their rescue.
When contacted, the Permanent Secretary in the state's Ministry of Health, Dr. Muhammad Sani Ka'oje, confirmed the number of casualties recorded as a result of the outbreak of the disease, but added that the situation is now under control.
"Yes, there was an outbreak of Gastro enteritis, but we thank Allah that the whole thing is scaling down. When it started last week, a total of 60 persons were infected and eight persons lost their lives as a result of the communicable disease. The disease was as a result of poor sanitation. The villagers has problem of drinking water because their borehole developed problem. They were drinking water from a contaminated well which became the main source of water to them. This has been taken care of as their source water has been fixed. Many of the victims isolated at the camp have been discharged," he said.
He urged the people of the area to desist from drinking unclean water, keep their environments clean, and that they should quickly take anyone found vomiting or stooling to the nearest medical centre.
The Director, Primary Health Care unit of Kalgo Local Government Area, Alhaji Abdullahi Musa Kashizama, on his part faulted a report that the people of the community were dying as a result of outbreak of cholera. He maintained that medical examination of the victims showed that they were suffering from Gastro enteritis.
"This is not the first time that we are having the outbreak of this disease. The first time was in January and February this year, many were infected, but no life was lost. But this time around, we recorded loss of lives. The isolation of victims of the disease has helped us a lot in taming the spread," he said.
Meanwhile, members of the affected area are calling on both the local and state government to find a lasting solution to the problem of pipe-borne water bedevilling them. They also commended the state governor, Alhaji Saidu Usman Dakingari, for the construction of the main road linking them to Birnin Kebbi, the state capital.
According to the Wikipedia online dictionary, Gastro enteritis is a medical condition characterised by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that involves both the stomach ("gastro"-) and the small intestine ("entero"-), resulting in some combination of diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pains and cramping.
The severity can range from a mild tummy upset for a day or two with some mild diarrhoea, to severe diarrhoea and vomiting for several days or longer. Viruses, bacteria and other microbes (germs) can cause gastroenteritis.
Viruses are easily spread from one person to another by close contact. This is often because of the virus being present on people's hands after they have been to the toilet. Surfaces or objects touched by the infected person can also allow transmission of the virus. The virus can also be passed on if the infected person prepares food. Outbreak of a virus causing gastroenteritis can occur - for example, in schools, hospitals or nursing homes.
Food poisoning (eating food infected with microbes) causes some cases of gastroenteritis. Water contaminated by bacteria or other microbes is another common cause, particularly in countries with poor sanitation.