To win the battle against Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Nigerians Living with NCDs has that their voice must be heard and it is crucial that they are seen as actors, rather than spectators, and as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
This call was made as Non-Communicable Disease (NCD) Alliance, Nigeria, an NGO, on Thursday unveiled eight champions for People Living with NCDs (PLWNCDs), to create awareness about the diseases in the country.
“We are Nigerians Living with NCDs and our voices must be heard. We are aware, NCDs have no respect for age, place or status; and affect old, young, rich, and poor in villages and cities, the privileged ,the vulnerable and recently those affected with COVID – 19.We are together and united because of NCDs,” said Ibrahim Yalwaji, the Bauchi State Champion, speaking on behalf of the champions.
According to Yalwaji, in 2018, in Nigeria, 29 percentages of deaths were due to NCDs: 617,300 Nigerians died from NCDs.
“We stand for action; so many lives can be saved. We now know almost 22 percent of deaths from NCDs are from those less than 50 years of age and we may come from diverse backgrounds with a multitude of life and professional experiences but our firm desire to fight for our lives and those of generation unborn unite us,” he said.
“Though we live with different NCD diseases, our diseases bind us together. We are human beings who are entitled to respect, dignity and the right to live with joy. We share our sufferings, challenges with our families and friends,” he said.
Yalwaji further said that policy makers need to know that we are aware of our fundamental rights. Henceforth, we refuse to be taken as passive recipients of policies and programmes.
“Political leaders will come and go and we will continue to live with NCDs. We must be involved in decision process. With one resounding voice, we demand to be heard. Through our collective actions, we can demand effective responses. When we collaborate, it is easier for us to push our common agenda to fight NCDs in Nigeria, Africa and globally.
According to him, we have suffered lack of diagnosis, high cost of treatment, lack of treatment options, inability to complete treatment, limited time with doctors, inability to access doctors and isolation from families and friends.
“Diseases that are preventable with early diagnosis gradually become chronic and cause devastating suffering. We demand to amplify the voice of millions like us, especially those who re too sick, too old, too young or too vulnerable to take a stand on their own,” he urged.
However, Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) are the most common cause of death and disability worldwide, accounting for more than 70 percent of all deaths. Above three – quarters of these deaths occur in developing countries, four out of five die before the age 50.
The main NCDs include Cancer, Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, mental health, and Sickle cell disease and Neurological disorders such as dementia.
Speaking on the unveiling, Kingsley Akinroye, Vice President, NCD Alliance, Nigeria, said that PLWNCDs must come together to advocate and negotiate with decision makers on issues that affect their lives.
According to the Vice President, NCD Alliance, Nigeria, Today we are training NCDs lead samplings. We now have eight lead sampling in the area of NCDs for advocacies. We have two each from Bauchi, Enugu, Lagos and Osun State.
“These are people that are going to drive activities for PLWNCDs in the country. We are expecting them to develop the plan on what they want to do in their states. These champions have a lot of roles to play in the struggle to reduce risks of NCDs and crises being faced by PLWNCDs.
He added: “They will be working with the parliaments, commissioners of health, organisations like World Health Oraganisation(WHO) among others. They have a big role to play; if they had been in existence during COVID-19 pandemic, the PLWNCDs would not have suffered what they suffered.
“We intend to move the NCDs care and treatment forward because nobody is looking at them like malaria and they are the major causes of death.
“Not many people know they are in existence but with these people, they can get attention.”
He added that if PLWNCDs came together, they could make decision-makers more accountable to reduce the number of people dying of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetics, hypertension, sickle cells and others.
According to Akinroye, in July 2020, the organisation got 40 PLWNCDs from each state through their ministry of health and afterward, they were reduced to two per state.
He said that PLWNCDs coached and developed them to sensitise people on NCDs.
Also speaking , Annette Akinsete, National Coordinator/CEO of Sickle Cell Foundation of Nigeria, said that there was need for PLWNCDs to come together to have a voice.
“Apart from the disorder being faced by the PLWNCDS, many of them are still being faced with the challenge of means of livelihood. The time is ripe to help the suffering PLWNCDs, urged the governments to help their care and treatment,” she said.