Fighting Cholera With Environmental Cleanliness
We all know that strong environmental protection is great for the ocean, air, and polar bear. But we often forget that being good to the environment is also good for people. A cleaner planet means less disease and better health.
This is the situation in Ghana right now. A cholera epidemic that has killed many and infected about 6,000 more is plaguing the west African nation. And where does the solution lie? According to Prophet Prince Kofi Okyere, President of Faith Anointing International Ministry, the solution lies in environmental cleanliness.
Cholera in the 21st-Century
Cholera is a fast-acting and virulent disease. It affects children and adults, the young and the old. Symptoms include profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. The infected can experience a rapid loss of body fluids, which leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.
During the 19th-century, cholera spread across the world from its point of origin in the Ganges delta in India. Its swiftness and pervasiveness horrified the public — a feeling that was reflected in the literature and art of the time. Six pandemics killed millions of people across all continents. The current (seventh) pandemic started in South Asia in 1961, and reached Africa in 1971, and the Americas in 1991. Cholera is now endemic in many countries.
Like many environmental problems, cholera generally strikes the poorest and most vulnerable communities. Haiti has struggled with an ongoing cholera epidemic since 2010 — the year of its devastating earthquake. And after historic floods hit India last month, many fear that a cholera outbreak will sustain the devastation.
A Stricken Country
The cholera outbreak in Ghana is being blamed primarily on poor sanitation. Dr. Linda Van Otto, Regional Health Director, said lots of people infected with cholera live in the slums and market areas. Residents in neighborhoods hardest hit by the disease often defecate on nearby beaches and buy from merchants selling food next to overflowing gutters.
“[People] should wash their hands with tap water and soap and if possible avoid handshakes at public gatherings,” Otoo said. “People continue to buy food near choked drains and public toilets and that is dangerous.”
The Greater Accra Regional Security Council in collaboration with the Regional Health Directorate outlined basic directives and strategies to help tackle the outbreak in August. Under the directives the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDA’s) must strictly enforce the bye-laws on sanitation and prosecute people and institutions that flout them. An education campaign, portable toilets, and final disposal sites for garbage are also in the works.
But is this enough?
Prophet Urges New Environmental Approach
Prophet Prince Kofi Okyere, President of Faith Anointing International Ministry, called on Ghanaians to observe environmental cleanliness to ensure good health at all times at a special church service at Pantang-Abokobi near Madina in the Greater Accra Region on Saturday.
“How do you fight cholera when you are throwing garbage and feces into the gutters?” he asked. He said cleanliness is next to Godliness and that people must take environmental sanitation seriously to avoid contracting and spreading the disease.
He offered a simple plan: prayer, environmental cleanliness, and a changed mentality. He also charged other religious leaders with the responsibility to use the pulpit to educate their members, as well as leave the comfort of their homes and reach out to people in rural areas.
“We need to pray very hard,” he said. “God is a listener of prayers and it would only take prayers to save the country from disease.”
Perhaps Prophet Okyere is on to something. Perhaps the situation in Ghana can be remedied with a change of values. And perhaps religious leaders are best equipped to help people make that change.
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