The Federal Government has said that an estimated 122 million people in Nigeria are at risk of at least one Neglected Tropical Disease (NTDs) due to poverty, poor access to basic health facilities and amenities in the country.
Speaking during 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 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the minister expressed concern that people afflicted by these diseases are usually poor, vulnerable and left to face the consequences on their own.
Represented by the Head, CRIB of the ministry, Ms. Mercy Megwa, Mohammed said that majority of NTDs were found in rural communities, and urged the media to work alongside government to reduce the incidence of mortality and morbidity arising from NTDs through awareness creation and sensitisation.
National NTD Coordinator, Dr. Anyaike Chukwuma who raised concerns that 2 out of every 3 Nigerians were at risk of one or more of the 12 NTDs present in Nigeria, said the rural areas, urban-slum and less privileged were most affected.
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Chukwuma in his presentation on the topic: ‘eliminating neglected tropical diseases- challenges and prospects’ urged government at all levels to increase fundings to control these diseases.
According to him, unless more attention was focused on eliminating NTDs, the reduction of poverty and attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the country would continue to be a mirage.
He listed the damages caused by NTDs to include damage of organs, low productivity, promotion of poverty, poor nutritional status especially in children, adverse effect on economic and social development and significant impact on maternal, newborn and child health amongst others.
“NTDs can never be over emphasised. They are closely associated with poverty, poor sanitation, lack of safe water sources, substandard housing conditions and deficient health care access.
“They tend to affect the poorest and have received less attention than other diseases but it comes with a lot of disabilities. If we are thinking of lifting 100 Nigerians out of poverty, we should pay more attention to NTDs.
“The diseases, numbering about 20, can result in blindness, deafness and various forms of physical disability and disfigurement.
“Child NTDs sufferers often shy away from attending school and end up growing up without skills and therefore trapped in a cycle of disease and poverty”, he said.
He noted that NTDs and poverty were interlinked, adding that fighting NTDs had direct benefit on productivity and ability of citizens to contribute to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
“Therefore NTD elimination also eliminates poverty,” he added.
Dr Chukwuma further
reiterated the need for increased awareness on the diseases because of their adverse effect on society, their relative obscurity and the availability of tools to combat them.
Earlier, Bioye Ogunjobi, WASH specialist said, with effective access to safe drinking water as well as ending open defecation, Nigeria could eliminate some of the NTDs within 5 years.
He added that as part of its effort to support Nigeria to eliminate some of these diseases, UNICEF is supporting 12 states in South West Nigeria.
Also, Micheal Igbe, Onchocerciasis program manager disclosed that at least 59 million Nigerians are at risk of
Onchocerciasis popularly refferred to as river blindness.
NTDs are a group of parasitic and bacterial diseases that have severe side effects. They blind, disfigure, and debilitate people in the poorest regions of the world.
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