By Haruna Gimba
The Federal Government of Nigeria has target to establish at least one focal Multi Drug Therapy (MDT) Clinic in all the 774 Local Government Areas of the country.
This was in addition to establishing over 600 MDT clinics that provides free diagnosis and treatment to patients with leprosy, the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole said.
The minister disclosed this in a speech during a working visit to Yangoji Leprosy Community, Kwali Area Council, Abuja, on the occasion of World Leprosy Day 2017.
It was reported that Nigeria introduced the MDT in 1998 and nearly two decades later, the country has achieved the World Health Organization’s (WHO) leprosy elimination target of less than 1 case per 10,000 populations at the national level.
Professor Adewole said over 28 referral/rehabilitation centres and the over 100 leprosy settlements in the country are in state of disrepair and in dire need of social amenities.
He said: “I call on stakeholders and our development partners to support upgrade of facilities and other social amenities. I assured you that the Federal Government of Nigeria will do her best in mobilising resources to improve the standard on living of the in-mates.”
According to the minister, Nigeria’s leprosy control efforts have been hampered by low public awareness of the disease, inadequate and late case reporting leading to complications like deformities and disabilities; stigma and discrimination against persons affected by the disease; and extreme poverty and societal exclusion.
“There were many mistaken beliefs about the disease, that it was highly contagious, hereditary, heaven’s punishment and these have negatively affected persons with leprosy even after they are cured,” he added.
In Nigeria, the states that have pockets of endemicity include Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Bauchi, Taraba, Niger, Kogi, Ebonyi, Abia, Cross River, Edo, Ogun, Osun and Lagos.
“Of utmost concern is the existence of new Leprosy cases that are reported each year among the general population including children and those with grade 2 disability.”
In 2015, a total of 2,892 new Leprosy cases were notified, among which 9 per cent were children and 15 per cent have grade 2 disabilities because of late presentation at the health care facilities.
As part of the efforts of government to eliminate leprosy in the endemic states, the Federal Ministry of Health launched a five year National Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Strategic Plan (2016–2020) in 2016.
“This document facilitates the implementation of appropriate strategies to increase case detection, improve treatment outcome, prevent disabilities and provide physical and socio-economic rehabilitation services to affected persons,” Prof Adewole said.