The Nigerian health ministry has blamed poor sanitation and shortage of safe drinking water for the deadly outbreaks of cholera and gastroenteritis in parts of northern Nigeria. A senior official announced Friday that the crisis is now under control. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja has this report for VOA.

United Nations agencies are helping Nigerian authorities to deal with a virulent diarrhea outbreak in northern Nigeria, where only a limited number of the population has access to access to safe drinking water.

According to the federal ministry of health, thousands of cases of cholera and gastroenteritis have been identified in at least five states, with a few cases also reported in at least three others.

A senior director of the federal ministry of health, Dr. Abdul Nasidi, says measures adopted to halt the spread of the diseases are now yielding positive results. He says the situation has been brought under control by local health authorities and medical teams sent to the areas.

"We confirmed cholera in one of the local governments in Sokoto, but the others are being investigated. It is controlled already," said Dr. Nasidi. "The states did very well, and we dispatched our own teams from the federal. Everything is under control. We also worked with some partners; WHO."

Authorities confirmed the death of more than 200 people from the outbreaks in the past four weeks, making it the worst in several years.

Cholera is an intestinal bacteria that causes serious diarrhea and vomiting leading to dehydration. With a short incubation, it can be fatal if not treated in time. Gastroenteritis shares the same characteristics.

Treating drinking water with chlorine and improving hygiene conditions can prevent the diseases.