Jacqueline Azumi Badaki, professor of Parasitology and Entomology has called for the establishment of a Center for Neglected Tropical Diseases with a focus on improved disease management in areas of diagnostics, preventive treatments, research and capacity building.
Badaki made the call in her inaugural lecture titled: “The Endless War Between Neglected Tropical Diseases and Overlooked Populations” at the Federal University Lokoja (FUL), adding that the centre could address possible resurgence of the disease and take the lead in advocacy for improved financing of NTDs control and health policy researched that could inform new strategies for the on trolley and elimination of NTDs in the country.
In the lecture, which was the 12th in the Federal University Lokoja Inaugural Lecture series, Badaki said that though the nation had recorded tremendous success in elimination of a few NTDs, there were threats from parasitic diversity and resilience, especially among rural population, as she called for political will on the part of government towards financing as well as institutional commitment and enabling working environment. She urged that sensitivity of government towards the health situation of the people should go beyond rhetoric.
“We should begin conversations and research around what is going on in the world of the parasites so that we are not taken unaware in the future,” she said.
In 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized 20 NTDs and two years later, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) recognized nine diseases as NTDs of public health importance in Nigeria.
They include; Trachoma, Burult ulcer, Trypanosomiasis, Dengue Fever, Schistosomiasis, Schistosomiasis, River Blindness, Lymphatic Filariasis, Onchocerciasis and soil transmitted Helminthes (worm infections).
“As at 2020, according to WHO, 863 million people were at risk of lymphatic filariasis with 25 million men living with hydrocoele and over 15 million people with lymphoedema.
“Note that Nigeria is the highest contributor to these estimates. Yet, NTDs receive only 0.6 percent health fund of official development assistance, unlike HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis that collectively receive above 50 percent,” Badaki said.
She pointed out that a lot of the diseases could be controlled with improved sanitation and hygiene and therefore, called on the government to provide good and accessible sanitary facilities and safe water supply, adding that researchers should market their research findings as it was not enough to publish the research works in journals but should go extra to market their products using digital platforms.
Badaki called on those with interest in infectious diseases research to explore WHO training grants rather than overload the TETFund.
Olayemi Akinwumi, vice chancellor, Federal University Lokoja (FUL), commended the inaugural lecturer, saying that she had met one of the academic requirements that qualified her as a professor of FUL.
He equally thanked the Governing Council of the university for the opportunity granted the professor and urged the academia and guests to get copies of the lecture for proper digestion and for their libraries.
The Adamawa-born professor of Parasitology and Entomology has had over 22 years of community interactive research experience and has served on several WHO/APOC missions in various capacities in different countries.