By Marcus Fatunmole
Nigeria may witness a rise in cases of end-organ damages, anaemia, malnutrition and other conditions linked to common forms of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), experts meeting in Nigeria’s South Western city of Ibadan have warned.
Their prediction comes less than two years after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington released a report which predicted that by the year 2050, more than 40% of the world’s poorest people will be living in Nigeria and DR Congo.
This according to the report would worsen the prevalence of onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis, trachoma, snakebite envenoming, rabies, buruli ulcer and other poverty-related NTDs that are already affecting the country excessively.
The government of Nigeria has made allusion to findings that every state in the country is endemic and that two out of every three people in Nigeria is at the risk of any of the NTDs.
Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, Director and National Coordinator, Neglected Tropical Diseases Elimination Programme of Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health in a presentation at Ibadan, Oyo state, during a two-day media dialogue, organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in collaboration with the Federal Ministries of Information and Health said NTDs caused by a group of viruses, bacteria and protozoa, despite being preventable and treatable, currently aﬀects over 1.5 billion people in the world, 40% of which live in Africa.
Anyaike, who gave further details about how NTDs affect people, said they disfigure, disable, and keep children out of school and parents out of work – limiting their potentials and leave communities stuck in poverty.
On how they cause lower productivity, Anyaike said “Infected adults cannot work effectively; adults may stay home to care for infected family members.”
This, the director said negatively impacts economic growth, social development and the poverty reduction initiatives of the country.
Meanwhile, Bioye Ogunjobi, UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Specialist has said that Nigeria could drastically reduce its NTDs burden within few years if issues of access to safe water, poor sanitation and general hygiene are addressed.
According to Ogunjobi, WASH is a more cost effective way of tackling NTDs, stating that Tippy Taps, Sato Pans, improved latrines etc and eventual behavioural change cost less than Mass Administration of Medicines.
“While preventive chemotherapy clears or reduces NTDs in the population, WASH interrupts and reduces transmission route or new cases. Combination of both can subsequently bring about elimination and ultimately eradication,” he said.
Amid the gloom, Nigeria has made some significant progress in NTDs control.
Nigeria was certified Guinea Worm Disease free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) since 2013, while it has interrupted Onchocerciasis transmission in Plateau, Nasarawa and Kaduna States as well as Trachoma transmission in 84 Local Government Areas (LGAs) out of 122 LGAs in 10 States of Edo, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Katsina, Kano, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto and Zamfara.
The country gets over donated medicines annually, worth trillions of Naira in production, shipping and other logistics for NTDs control.
Meanwhile, the United States’ Center for Disease Control (US CDC) has set up a multifunctional laboratory in-country at Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), for analysis of NTD-specific samples in Nigeria.
There are, however, suggestions that NTDs interventions should be mainstreamed with the Northeast Development/Rehabilitation Programme; Niger Delta/Ogoni Clean Up Project; Sustainable Development Goals Project in Nigeria, and other programmes.