Anguan Hausawa, FCT suburb where gastroenteritis is on rampage
The 40-minute ride on keke NAPEP from the Gaduwa end of Apo to Angua Hausa around Damangaza, a rural community in the FCT, was all bumps and holes. Like many other communities of its type in and around the FCT, Angua Hausa is home to a cluster of natives, who are completely cut off from social amenities, and it would take an insider to cry out to the outside world, if there was any outbreak of epidemic in the area.
With a feeder road that meanders through cashew trees, the sleepy community, with a population of 3, 795 people (according to the FCT health secretariat), was practically unknown to the rest of the larger society, until about three weeks ago, when it was reported that an epidemic, which killed its victim within a short space of time, had broken out there.
The Guardian was, however, informed by the community head that the outbreak began in June and that the people had been battling the scourge all along in their native ways and doing the best they could.
Alhaji Abdulhamidu Ibrahim, the Mai Angua Damangaza Hausa (community head), who spoke to The Guardian with the assistance of an interpreter, put the number of the dead at 35, mainly children. His household was also not spared, as one of his twin girls, aged five, was one of the victims, while the other twin is still fighting the battle of her life at a hospital in the FCT. He explained that so far, three different surgeries had been performed on the girl.
Like all other victims, he said his daughters started showing some symptoms of mild fever, which became severe within a day, after which they began to complain of stomach cramping, a situation that led to stooling and vomiting. Ibrahim said though everyone applied whatever remedy they knew, the condition became uncontrollable, and before they knew it, one of the girls gave up the ghost.
The outbreak, called gastroenteritis in the medical parlance, but simply known as cholera or diarrhoea, cannot, however, be said to have missed its target, as the community hit exhibited all the indices that can encourage and allow such epidemic to thrive. All around, children were seen defecating openly. There was no proper waste disposal channel and refuse dumps were like ornaments, arranged on either side of the feeder road that leads to the community. Drainage is a luxury, while people in the community sourced water from wells and the stream.
However, there was a bore-hole, which Jummai Idris, the woman leader, said was drilled by some business-minded people, who sell the water to residents. She said a bucket or thereabout of borehole water goes for N20, which a majority of the people cannot afford, so they resort to well water and the stream.
The nearest hospital to the community is located in Dutse-Apo, a journey that takes them completely out of their domain towards the Apo district. This, Idris said, does not augur well for the people, as travelling for close to one hour to seek medical help might be too long in emergency situations. Among the priority needs of the community, she outlined water, hospital, road and electricity.
On its part, the Federal Capital Territory Administration, through Mrs. Alice Odey-Achu, the Acting Secretary of FCT Health and Human Services Secretariat, said water sample was taken from the community in the wake of the outbreak so that the cause could be ascertained. She explained that FCTA has to apply a holistic approach of treatment so as to curtail the outbreak from wherever it emanated from.
There is some sort of contradiction in the casualty figures put forward by the parties involved, as the figure given by the government is a far cry from that of the villagers. While Odey-Achu put the casualty figure at nine, the community head said 35 of their children were lost to the epidemic.
She said: “We now run what we call Camp Clinic. We have taken samples to ascertain the cause of the outbreak. We were told that the outbreak started since June and the casualty figure is put at three, involving people of between the ages of three to five. Six people of between the ages of six and 15 also died.
“The camp clinic will continue to run and we have to start giving vaccination for measles, tetanus, vitamin A, immunisation of children, malaria tests, HIV counselling and a whole lot of holistic intervention. We have to do community mobilisation to sensitise them on the importance of keeping their environment clean.”
As at the time The Guardian visited the village last Thursday, there were no health workers around, though the village head corroborated the FCTA’s claims and confirmed that the health workers were around on Tuesday. He said they brought drugs for the sick and checked others with complaints.
The people also said Abdullahi Adamu Candido, Chairman, the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), visited the community on Tuesday for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.When asked what requests they usually make to politicians during campaigns to solicit for their votes, the interpreter responded that they always present specific needs, but that the politicians usually disappear soon after elections, except when an unfortunate occurrence happens and they come to commiserate with them.
Elections to the Area councils were undertaken a few months back and for whatever it is worth, it is imperative that the elected chairmen begin to look into how to give rural areas in the FCT a face lift and deliver on their election promises.