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122m Nigerians at risk of getting NTDs

In November 2020, the Federal Ministry of Health , the ministry saddled with the responsibility of taking care of the health of Nigerians said 122 million people in the countr y are at risk of getting Neglected Tropical Disease. Chukwuma Anyaike, former Direc tor and National Coordinator of Neglec ted Tropical Diseases Control/ E l i m i n at i o n / E ra d i c at i o n Programme at the FMoH, said this at a twoday media dialogue at Ibadan. The dialogue was organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau, Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

According to the News Agenc y of Nigeria, Mr Anyaike said that NTDs are a group of 20 disease conditions that are common in tropical or subtropical regions and are closely associated with pover ty, poor sanitation, lack of water sources, substandard housing condition and deficient health care access. Some of the diseases include Lymphatic Filariasis ( Elephantiasis), S o i l – T r a n s m i t t e d Helminthiasis (STH), Onchocerciasis (River blindness), Trachoma (Granular Conjunc tivitis) and Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). “ The diseases are called neglec ted because they tend to affec t the world’s poorest and received less attention than other diseases. “It is estimated that 122 million people in Nigeria are affec ted or at risk of getting NTDs. “Of the number, 20 per cent are pre -school age children, 28 per cent are school-age children and 52 per cent are adults.” According to him, NTDs have a great impac t on economic growth and should duly be tack led in order to reduce pover ty BY AKIN ORIMOLADE O ver 10,000 snake bite victims, representing one third of victims ,in the country lack medical treatment, New National Star investigations have revealed. Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) records revealed that about 15,000 persons suffer snake bite attacks yearly while the government procures anti-snake venom for the treatment of only 5,000.

Snake bite is an underestimated and ignored public health problem that causes considerable illness, disabilities, death, and socioeconomic hardship to the poor population living in rural areas where access to life-saving anti-venom is poor. Investigations revealed that Taraba, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, Plateau and Benue states are the most endemic. According to health officials, victims are mostly women, children, pupils, peasant farmers, herdsmen and hunters. In Nigeria, officials claim Carpet Viper(Echis ocellatus),Puff Adder (Bitis arientans) and Cobra (Naja nigricollis) are the three deadly snakes stressing that Carpet Viper is responsible for 90 percent of bites and 60 122m Nigerians at risk of getting NTDs 10,000 snake bite victims lack medical treatment annually percent of deaths. Between 2015 and 2019, Ministry of Health records revealed that 39,458 victims were admitted. it was gathered that 633 victims died during the period. Speaking recently at a media dialogue on Neglected Tropical Diseases Control in Nigeria, Mr. Fatai Oyediran of the Federal Ministry of Health said the first interim solution to snakebite challenge in the country is to increase funding so that more Anti Snake Venom (ASV) could be procured. Mr. Oyediran said the ultimate solution is the local production of ASV in the country. According to him, the process to begin local production of ASV started during the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo but lack of political will frustrated the production years later. He ,however, said there have been recent/ ongoing efforts such as the setting up of a project delivery team/committee on local production of ASV and the collaboration of the FMoH with Infrastructural Concession Regulatory Agency(ICRC) on the local production of ASV.

In addition, Mr. Oyediran said the Snakebite Envenoming Programme under The Neglected Tropical Diseases Division, Public Health Department of FMOH is also collaborating with the Traditional Complementary & Alternative Medicine Department of FMOH in harnessing local remedies for management of Snakebite cases. Speaking on local production of ASV, Dr. Nandul Durfa, Managing Director of Echitab Study Ltd said at about N7 billion would be required to establish a factory for production of ASV in the country. According to him,ASV sourced from Britain costs between N35,000-N37,000 depending on the foreign exchange stressing that;”if we continue to import the drugs from overseas,we have to struggle with the cost as well as not getting them at the time we need it. But if we have our own factory, we can always produce the drugs and make them available to our people at a cheaper price”.

Durfa who was pioneer Chief Medical Director, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital said there was need for the government to have a rethink on the plight of victims of snake bites around the Middle belt,North West and North East who spend huge amounts on treatment given the prohibitive cost of the imported ASV. in the country ”. “ S u s t a i n a b l e economic development cannot occur without addressing NTDs because we need to have a country free of NTDs. “ The countr y needs to reduce the morbidity and mor tality of the diseases to the barest minimum. “ We need to control, eliminate and eradicate the diseases,” Mr. Anyaike said. On some of the strategies to tack le NTDs, he said they should include mass administration of medicines, innovation and intensified disease management, integrated vec tor management as well as improved water, sanitation, and hygiene. Mr. Anyaike called for more funding to address the disease. The coordinator also emphasised the urgent need for government to strengthen ownership, advocac y, and partnership. “ The challenges of the diseases are poor funding, lack of information while some people have wrong ideas about the disease and dirty environment. “There should be enhanced planning for results resources, mobilisation and financial sustainability of national NTDs programme,’’ Mr. Anyaike said. Geoffrey Njoku, C o m m u n i c a t i o n Specialist, UNICEF, said that the diseases have been forgotten “and that if nothing was done, they might spread the same way COVID-19 did.”

Mr. Njoku said that the objective of the dialogue was for the media to understand why those diseases are neglected. According to him, “the dialogue will also enable the media to create more awareness on the diseases.” (NAN).

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