Forgotten diseases hit 100m Nigerians
Category: News Written by Judd-Leonard Okafor
More than 100 million Nigerians are at risk of infection by any of 10 diseases, long neglected in tropical climates, federal health authorities reveal.
A mapping of endemicity of Nigeria for 10 neglected tropical diseases shows the country has the highest risk and burden among countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
This comes as Nigeria launch what is considered its first-ever multi-year masterplan to deal with the diseases, including river blindness, intestinal worms, schistosomiasis, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, leprosy and guinea worm, which are all considered of lower profile than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
“These diseases continue to affect our people. We see them being affected and we turn the other way—that’s why they are called neglected,” cautioned health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu.
Launching the NTD masterplan, he said, “unless we have clear roadmaps to most of our problems we will be underachieving.”
Implementing the plan is expected to cost $230 million over the next five years till 2017, he added.
Some 35 million Nigerians are affected by intestinal worms and 5,000 new cases of leprosy are recorded annually—in both cases the fourth largest globally, according to data from the federal health ministry describing Nigeria’s NTD burden.
Nigeria still has the highest incidence of lymphatic filariasis, affecting 78 million people, and schistosomiasis, affecting 43 million).
Another 19 million are at risk of trachoma.
These neglected tropical diseases “are a major reason why 500 million people in sub-Saharan Africa cannot escape poverty, and this situation is unacceptable,” said minister of state for health Muhammad Pate at the launch.
He said NTDs were serious impediment to socioeconomic development and quality of life due to the enormous burden in terms of disease burden, loss of productivity, aggravation of poverty and high cost of long-term care.
In years of dealing with tropical diseases, Nigeria achieved eradication of guinea worm after it recorded its last case in November 2008. It still awaits accreditation by World Health Organisation.
Treatment for river blindness targeted 20 million people in the last seven years, despite a spike to 30 million in 2011, according to Dr Bridget Okoeguale, public health director at the federal health ministry.