- Governments at the federal and state levels have been urged to improve funding to eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases in Nigeria
- The call was made by experts at a 2-day media dialogue organised by UNICEF in Port Harcourt, Rivers State
- According to the experts, there is also a need for improved awareness and enlightenment on the diseases
Port Harcourt, Rivers state - Health experts have attributed poor funding, low awareness and poor water, hygiene and sanitation lifestyle among Nigerians as major factors mitigating the elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).
According to the experts, Nigeria is battling with 15 out of 20 NTDs listed by the World Health Organisation.
These diseases, the experts say are common in tropical and sub-tropical regions associated with poverty, lack of safe water sources, substandard housing conditions, deficient healthcare and poor sanitation.
Speaking at a media dialogue attended by Legit.ng on NTDs Control in Nigeria organised by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), national coordinator of NTDs Elimination Programme in Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Health, Nse Akpan, said funding has continued to hinder the elimination of the diseases in Nigeria.
Some of the NTDs include; lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis), soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH), onchocerciasis (river blindness), trachoma (Granular Conjunctivitis) and schistosomiasis (bilharzia), rabies, snake bites, yaws, buruli ulcer, leprosy, guinea worm diseases among others.
Funding Pattern for NTDs in Nigeria
In his presentation, Akpan said the epileptic release of funds for the elimination of NTDs are the major challenges the programme faces in Nigeria.
“I will not be shy to say that in Nigeria, funds have been allocated but the release is epileptic. The release is epileptic because this is a country that we enjoy foreign donor support. It is only when we do not have this support, maybe we will wake up and take up the challenge.
“The country will appropriate a huge amount but the release generally is poor, this is not restricted to only NTDs programmes or ministry of health. It affects all ministry.
“In 2020, we were challenged with issues of COVID-19, so of over 200 million appropriated, 80 per cent went to tackling COVID-19 issues. So we had to adjust."
Further speaking, he added that lack of awareness especially among people in rural communities is a challenge in ending the spread of the diseases.
"The diseases are called neglected because they tend to affect the world's poorest, and yet receive less attention than other diseases.
He further warned that children are not also left out in the spread of NTDs as they are commonly affected by intestinal worms."
"They disfigure, disable, keep children out of school and parents out of work while limiting their potentials, and leave communities and nations stuck in poverty."
He noted that the elimination of the NTDs programme by the government, supported by UNICEF, WHO, Evidence Action and many other partners is aimed at having a country free of NTDs through the implementation of policies and plans that would strengthen national health systems.
In his address, UNICEF WASH specialist, Bioye Ogunjobi, while presenting an overview of the agencies activities to eliminate the diseases in the Niger Delta region said the terrain and the mindset of the people were a huge hindrance to the elimination of NTDs in the region.
Ogunjobi decried the lack of political will and non-release of counterpart fundings as NTDs programmes are majorly sponsored by donor agencies and partners.
He called on governments at the national and state level to get involved in ending the disease or its spread across the country.
Efforts by International Organisations and Partners
According to Aliyu Suleiman, a WHO NTDs focal person, efforts to eliminate these diseases in Nigeria has been going on for years.
Suleiman said the WHO spends millions of dollars annually to provide drugs for the prevention, management and treatment of NTDs in Nigeria.
In January 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it has rolled out a 10-year road map for NTDs which proposes ambitious targets and innovative approaches to tackling the diseases.
The organisation said the effort is geared towards the quest of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030.
In a Facebook post, the federal ministry of health said the minister of state for health, Adeleke Mamora has pledged to support the Institute of Public Analysts of Nigeria (IPAN) to ensure that their goals of better nationwide healthcare services are realized.
Legit.ng previously reported that a strange disease hit Benue state on Sunday, February 14.
The disease affected five students of Vaatia College in Makurdi who were reported to have been hit with the strange illness.
The students were also hospitalized at the teaching hospital and Madonna hospital all in Makurdi.
In other news, 10 people were confirmed to have died in Kano state after drinking flavoured drinks containing citric acid.
The Kano state commissioner for health, Aminu Ibrahim Tsanyawa, said no fewer than 500 receiving treatment after drinking the flavoured drinks containing citric acid in Kano.
Tsanyawa said 50 people among those hospitalized are undergoing kidney-related treatment following complications related to the consumption of the drinks.