‘Ice water’ will bring about cholera, typhoid, dysentery outbreaks – Experts

By Nudoiba Ojen

Experts have expressed worries that the skyrocketing price of sachet water may push many people back to drinking ice water (water manually packaged in nylon).

They said that Nigeria, already with a high disease burden, may witness an outbreak of cholera, dysentery, typhoid and gastrointestinal infections with drinking of iced water which will come from so many unhygienic sources.

Sachet water manufacturers, under the aegis of the Association of Table Waters Producers, had raised the alarm that pure water, which erstwhile sold for N20, but now N50 per sachet, is heading for N100 per sachet due to the high cost of procuring production materials.

It is glaring that if pure water is sold at N100 per sachet, many Nigerians who are struggling to survive will not be able to afford it, and therefore, might return to the days of drinking ice water.

The producers warned that an increase in the price of sachet water may lead to an outbreak of waterborne diseases in the country.

A scientist and professor of Paediatrics at the Department of Paediatrics, College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, Olugbenga Mokuolu, said the government should be worried about the implications of Nigerians not having access to safe drinking water.

Mokuolu said, “If people stop having access to clean water, then we are going to suffer consequences of water-borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, and sleeping sickness. Those are the conditions that we should particularly be worried about.

‘Packaging water in a nylon (ice water) should be discouraged and people should stop buying water from sources that are prohibited.

“We should be worried about the situation and I don’t think the price of pure water should only be our concern. The question is why is it that as a country we are practically forgetting the basic duty of provision of pipe borne water to the people? So I think that we should not take something abnormal to become the norm.”

According to him, it is not appropriate for people to generate water, power, and everything on their own.

The researcher pointed out that water from open sources such as wells and rivers is unsafe for drinking.

“Once we are not getting our water from a municipal supply or a treated source like sachet water, then we have to remember to apply measures of filtering or boiling and cooling the component of the water that we are going to use for drinking”, the paediatrician advised.

Decrying the poor pipe-borne water supply in the country, the don said, ”We just pray that the government will continue to prioritise this kind of social amenities. I don’t tend to hear too much about water projects where we are taken to lay pipes to have water come into peoples’ houses.

“So most houses live on boreholes and other sources of water. But then, we must admit that the sachet water has equally contributed in terms of access to good quality water provided the sachet water themselves have been properly manufactured.”

He advised Nigerians to be mindful of the sources of water they drink.

Mokuolu urged the government to provide potable water to Nigerians as a basic necessity of life.

Corroborating his view, a Family Physician, Dr Jide Onyekwelu, described the situation as a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

Onyekwelu who is the Secretary-General of the Nigerian Medical Association explained that drinking from unsafe water sources, such as those tied in nylon would lead to outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera and gastrointestinal infections.

“We are going to witness an outbreak of these diseases if the masses are unable to have access to affordable drinking water and there is no universal health coverage in the country.

“Payment for healthcare is still out of pocket and a lot of the masses are the ones who drink this sachet water.

“If people can’t afford the price of sachet water, how will they be able to pay for care when they come down with these waterborne diseases? It is really sad and a time bomb waiting to explode”, the physician lamented.

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