Likelihood of Epidemic Outbreak in Port Harcourt - Dr. Okorafor Ukiwe

Dr. Okorafor Ukiwe - CEO, Healthwise Hospital Dr. Okorafor Ukiwe is a general medical practitioner and the CEO, Healthwise Hospital, l...

Dr. Okorafor Ukiwe - CEO, Healthwise Hospital

Dr. Okorafor Ukiwe is a general medical practitioner and the CEO, Healthwise Hospital, located in the flood-affected area of Orije community of D/Line, Port Harcourt. In an exclusive interview with Abraham Ebini, the expert predicts outbreak of epidemic in the area if government fails to intervene with medication and other sorts of relief for victims of the Rivers State flooding. He appeals to the government to provide relief materials and rehabilitation for victims. Dr. Okorafor also advocates the provision of adequate waste management mechanism to prevent further occurrence of flood in the state; calls for good hygiene habits by residents. Excerpts!
Sir, what was your experience of the recent flooding in your area in Port Harcourt?
It was a very disastrous event. It took a lot of people by surprise because people were asleep when the creek behind (Ntanwogba creek) got filled up, spilled over and people later realized that their environment was getting flooded. So, the whole neighbourhood was entirely flooded and it caused a lot of damage.
As a medical professional, what do you think are the related illnesses and disease that may arise if adequate measures are not put in place?
In situation like this where you have flood, there are lot of things that will happen. The first thing is that there will be environmental hazards. I think you must have heard of one unfortunate incident of electrocution during the flooding. When electricity cables are on and there is flood, they will actually transmit current. We lost someone due to that problem. We also have the incident of animals and reptiles like snakes, scorpions and so on, that tried flee from the flood. We would be beaten by these animals or insects, and that is another immediate hazard.
We also have some other health hazards like when it floods, the sewage system is overwhelmed and the water that is coming in, is contaminated by faeces and other sorts of things. So when people enter into such water, they are exposed to bacterial and viral infection and the commonest we know is cholera. As medical practitioners we need to watch out and try to see what we can do to educate people living around the neighbourhood on good practices. People that have boreholes around the flooded area should be conscious because you can see the sumo submerged in infectious water. So, it is advisable that people should wash their overhead tanks and wash all their household items before use.
Has any victim of the flooding been rushed to your hospital for treatment or examination?
Incidentally, we don’t have any case of diarrhea as a result of this incident but immediately after the flooding, people were trying to bail water out of their properties. We had a man that was trying to do that and slipped his foot and fell so he had a severe head injury and we had to attend to him immediately.
Was he able to foot his bill?  
Obviously, he was not able to do that. So for us as medical practitioners, we saw it as an opportunity to render social service. We just had to do the job for him.
What is your advice to the flood victims?
The flood issue from what I see is man-made. I wouldn’t call it a natural disaster because if people imbibe the habit of cleanliness, properly disposing of their refuse, we will have less incidents of flooding in Port Harcourt. It is common knowledge that around this environment, people throw garbage into drains. People are not making use of appropriate disposing point which is another issue of all together because I believe that the state does not have adequate waste disposal mechanism. The agency RIWAMA (Rivers State Waste Management Agency) has to do a lot to help people evacuate refuse. (Bu because the Agency does not live up to its duties), residents have no option but to begin dumping of their refuse into gutter and drainages.
So, I advise that people as much as possible, shouldn’t be tempted to throw garbage into drainages because if they continue to do that, the resultant effect is flash flooding like this.
Another advice is that people should observe proper hygiene even after this flooding. They have to be watchful, vigilant and live a normal lifestyle.

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