By Hassan Zaggi
No fewer than 122 million Nigerians, equivalent to 61 per cent of the country’s population, are at risk of being infected by one or more of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), an expert has revealed.
As at middle of this year, Nigeria’s population was projected to be 206 million.
This further meant that 2 out of every 3 Nigerians are at risk of one or more of the NTDs.
This is even as poor incentive is hampering the distribution of NTDs drugs to residents of remote areas prone to the NTDs.
This was revealed by the Director and National Coordinator, Neglected Tropical Diseases Elimination Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, at a 2-day media dialogue on Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) control in Nigeria, organised by the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information, in Ibadan, recently.
He explained that, out of the 122 million people, 20 per cent, which is equivalent to 24.4 million are pre-school age children, 28 per cent (34.17 million) are school age children (5-14 years) and 52 per cent (64.44 million) are adults (15 years and above).
Giving a breakdown of how Nigerians are at risk of the different types of the NTDs, the National Coordinator said that 119.8 million Nigerians are at risk of Lymphatic Filiriasis, 51.4 million people at risk of the Onchocerciasis, 28.8 million school age children and 20.5 million pre-school age children are at risk of soil-transmitted helminths, 26.8 million people at risk of trachoma and 23.8 million school age children are at risk of schistosomiasis.
Dr. Anyaike, however, revealed that Nigeria needs the sum of N154 billion to eradicate Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in the next few years.
Dr. Anyaike explained that NTDs are a group of preventable and treatable diseases that could be caused by viruses, bacteria, protozoa.
While saying that all states in Nigeria are endemic for one or more of these NTDs, the expert revealed that NTDs include Onchocerciasis (River Blindness), Lymphatic Filariasis, Schistosomiasis, Soil-transmitted Helminthiasis, Trachoma and many others.
According to him, the negative consequences of NTDs are many, which, he said, included end-organ damages due to chronic infections, significant impact on maternal, newborn, and child health, causes poor nutritional status, especially in children; poor educational outcomes, low productivity, pose a devastating obstacle to attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and NTDs negatively impact economic growth, social development and poverty reduction initiatives.
Meanwhile, poor incentive to community volunteers is preventing the NTDs drugs from reaching those who need it at the local communities.
The community leader of Unipe in Oluyole Local Government Area of Oyo State, Mrs Florence Olerin, disclosed this to journalists during a visit to her palace.
The community leader who said that she had been using her resources to ensure the distribution of the NTDs drugs to local communities, revealed that most times, the volunteers tend to see the amount given to them as insufficient.
The 76-year-old community leader said that she began the distribution of the drugs for River Blindness and Malaria to various communities since the military era.
Most times, according to her, the incentive from the local government don’t come in time and that, even when it comes, it is not sufficient to motivate the volunteers to travel long distances to distribute the drugs.
“Most times I give them N1,000 each for them to distribute the drugs. When they come here, they insist that I buy water and food for them with my money. I always don’t have option but to comply to their demands so that they can take the drugs to the local people.
“Sometimes they even alleged that the government is giving me huge amount of money and I don’t want to give them, which is not true.
“I, therefore, call on the authorities concern to provide sufficient and regular incentive for us to mobilise more volunteers who will happily take the drugs to remote areas,” she said.