• Friday, June 14, 2024
businessday logo


122m Nigerians at risk of NTDs

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)

Some 122 million Nigerians are at risk of one or more Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), which kill, impair and render millions of people around the world permanently disable every year.

Health officials, who stated this on Tuesday, also decried low awareness of the diseases among the populace.

Nse Akpan, national coordinator of NTD elimination programme said two of every three Nigerians (48 percent of them children), may suffer from one more of these diseases across the country.

NTDs are conditions that are common in tropical or sub-tropical regions due to poverty, poor sanitation, lack of safe water sources, substandard housing conditions and deficient healthcare access, among others.

Some NTDs that are endemic in Nigeria include treponematoses (yaws), leprosy (Hansen disease), Chagas disease, human African trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness), lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis (river blindness), schistosomiasis (bilharziasis), among others.

Akpan informed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified 20 NTDs and 15 of them are endemic in Nigeria.

Read Also: Tackling neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) has long-term economic gains for Africa

He explained that these diseases have been termed neglected because they are common among the down-trodden in Nigeria, low income earners, and those living in rural areas.

Akpan stated this at a two-day media dialogue organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the federal ministry of information and culture in collaboration with the federal ministry of health and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) in Port Harcourt.

“Sometimes they end up living a miserable life, but nobody cares about this, we only focus on tackling other diseases in the country”, he said.

The coordinator regretted that despite the health and economic implications of these diseases, efforts towards their elimination have only crawled throughout the country due to low awareness and shrinking funding.

He noted that Nigeria’s target was to eliminate all 15 NTDs in the country by 2020 but only one has been successfully eliminated which is the Guinea Worm Disease (GWD) in 2013.

“We call ourselves the giant of Africa, but we are actually surviving on donor funding. Funding from the Federal Government has been allocated but release is epileptic because we are still enjoying donor support. A time will come when Nigeria will not see donor support”, he said

He reiterated that awareness, funding for the elimination of the disease must be improved upon.

Also speaking, Aliyu Suleiman, focal point for NTDs in Nigeria, noted that all states in Nigeria were endemic to NTDs except four local government areas.

According to him, the two of the local government areas are in Rivers and two in Bauchi State, but pointed out that no local government area has been certified free of NTDS as certification is only done at national level.

Geoffrey Njoku, communication specialist, UNICEF, said the dialogue was aimed at changing the narrative and perception on NTDs, closing communication gaps in communities and creating more awareness around it.

He added that the dialogue was expected to get the media better informed and equipped with appropriate messages to reduce incidence of morbidity and mortality from the disease.

Globally, 1.5 billion people suffer from NTDs with 40 percent of them in Africa.