How Mercy Corps is meeting the threat of cholera in Northeast Nigeria


February 22, 2018

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  • Women line up to receive kits that include cooking equipment and hygiene products. PHOTO: Mercy Corps staff

Mercy Corps is responding to the urgent threat of cholera in Nigeria's Borno State, as a five-month outbreak affected more than 5,000 people and resulted in more than 60 deaths in 2017. Though the outbreak has been contained thanks to a coordinated response between sectors, the risk of future outbreaks remains high for vulnerable populations already struggling to survive.

Thanks to a coordinated effort between multiple organizations, the affected area — Nigeria’s Borno State, the epicenter of an urgent humanitarian crisis — the cholera outbreak was contained.

With support from European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), Mercy Corps has distributed hygiene supplies in the community of Dikwa, which has experienced more than 700 reported cholera cases. The area was taken back by the government military in July 2015, after most of its population fled from fighting the year before. Since then, a steady number of people have returned, along with people fleeing conflict elsewhere.

Get the quick facts about the crisis in Nigeria ▸

Mercy Corps provided food to 60,000 people on a monthly basis through December 31, 2017, as well as nutritious supplements for pregnant women and nursing mothers. We have also distributed kits to 12,000 people that contain essential hygiene and household items like mattresses and blankets, mosquito nets, jerry cans, cooking equipment, tarps, water purifier tabs and soap.

A Mercy Corps staff member provides a training on how to properly use water purification tablets. PHOTO: Mercy Corps staff

At the site distribution of the kits, we trained families receiving the kits to use soap properly during handwashing, as well as how to use water purifier tabs safely.

“Before, I used a broken bucket without a cover to fetch drinking water from the community borehole and store at home. A lot of dirt would get into the water, as it does not have a cover. My children would get sick after some time,” says Yagana, a displaced person living in Dikwa. “Now I can properly store drinking water in a jerry can that is fitted with cover. I have also learnt how to properly use the Aqua tab to treat my drinking water.”

To help prevent the spread of cholera and other waterborne illnesses, we have also employed people to clean out drainage channels, which have fallen into disrepair during the ongoing conflict. Cleaning out drainage channels helps prevent standing water that breeds diseases like cholera, typhoid and malaria, and also provides an opportunity for people who were displaced by the conflict to work again.

Nigerians picking their hygiene kits and household items. PHOTO: Mercy Corps staff

With health and sanitation infrastructure weakened by years of conflict, the cholera outbreak quickly spread after starting in a camp for internally displaced people.

With conflict ongoing, another outbreak is possible. Many Nigerians in the northeast continue to be cut off from healthcare access and are living in crowded camps where diseases can easily spread.

How you can help

The threat of cholera remains in parts of Nigeria. With your help, we can keep it contained. Here's how you can get involved:

  • Donate today. Every single contribution helps us provide even more food, water, shelter and support to families living in Nigeria and around the world.
  • Sign the petition. Tell Congress not to cut international aid. Around the world, people are in need of lifesaving assistance. We must continue to support them.