Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) have remained neglected despite the burden on families of those affected with the diseases.
NTDs are a group of preventable and treatable diseases like Guinea-worm, Leprosy, etc. that could be caused by viruses, bacteria and protozoa.
The diseases are called ‘neglected’ because they affect the poorest, most vulnerable people and receive less attention than other diseases.
NTDs, which are common in tropical or sub-tropical regions are closely associated with poverty, poor sanitation, lack of safe water sources, substandard housing conditions and deficient healthcare access.
According to available statistics, the diseases aﬀect 1.5 billion people globally, 40 per cent of whom live in Africa.
The national coordinator, NTDs Elimination Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Nse Akpan, said 12 out of the 20 NTDs are present in Nigeria and only four Local Government Areas (LGDs) are not endemic with any form of NTDs.
The diseases are: Onchocerciasis, Lymphatic Filariasis, Schistosomiasis, Soil-transmitted Helminthiasis, Trachoma, Snakebite Envenoming, Rabies, Buruli Ulcer, Leprosy, Yaws, Leishmaniasis, Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) and Guinea-worm Disease (eliminated).
Akpan, in his presentation titled: ‘Overview of Neglected Tropical Diseases in Nigeria” at a media dialogue on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Control in Nigeria, organised by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information & Culture and the Federal Ministry of Health, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said 122 million Nigerians were at risk of one or more form of NTDs.
He added that 20 per cent of this figure are pre-school children, 28 Per cent school age children and 52 per cent are adults.
According to him, NTDs pose a devastating obstacle to attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), and negatively impact economic growth, social development and poverty reduction initiatives, adding that sustained economic development cannot occur without addressing NTDs.
He, therefore, stressed the need for government at all levels to invest in elimination of the diseases.
However, Akpan noted that some progress have been made, including the Trachoma transmission interrupted in 84 LGAs out of 122 LGAs in 10 States (Edo, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Katsina, Kano, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto and Zamfara).
He added that bout 85,775 cases of Trachomatous Trichiasis surgeries have been conducted from inception of the programme till date, with over 26,000 cases of trichiasis managed in 2019.
Also, he said more than 700 million donated medicines are used annually, worth trillions of Naira in production, shipping and other logistics. And over 200 million cumulative treatments achieved in 2019
Center for Disease Control (US CDC) has set up a multifunctional laboratory in-country at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), for analysis of NTD-specific samples. Strengthening of the NTDSupply Chain Management (SCM) and development of LMIS Tools, Akpan said.
In spite of these efforts and achievements, NTDs control in the country is faced with challenges, some of which Ankpan identified as: “Poor funding support by all tiers of government for NTDs interventions and inadequate or sometimes lack of information about these diseases.
He, therefore, called on government at all levels to release a proportion (0.05 per cent) of the total budget annually to implement critical activities towards fasttracking NTD elimination in the country.
According to him, “NTD interventions should be mainstreamed with the following and covered with funds allocated for the projects: the Northeast Development/Rehabilitation Programme, Niger Delta/Ogoni Clean Up Project, Sustainable Development Goals Project in Nigeria, Home Grown School Feeding Project,”
He urged the use of NTD endemicity to prioritise provision of safe water sources nationwide, as was the case when Nigeria was Guinea worm endemic.
“Approve prioritisation of safe water supply sources from the location of potable water sources by the Ministry of Water Resources in all NTD endemic communities in the country,” said Anyaike.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that since 1991, UNICEF has supported Onchocerciasis and Lymphatic Filariasis control interventions in 12 states using fund from UNICEF USA.
The organisation works with the NTD Team-Federal, State & LGA and the support targets 206 LGAs in the twelve project states of Niger, Benue, Oyo, Bauchi, Cross River, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Gombe, Ogun, Bayelsa and Rivers States.