By Zayamu Hassan
The fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Nigeria is currently suffering due to epileptic, piece-meal and near-zero release of budgeted amount.
The National Coordinator, Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Elimination Programme in Nigeria, Dr. Nse Akpan, raise the concern at a two-day training for journalists in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
The training was organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Dr Akpan said Donor agencies funding is the major source that currently sustains the fight against the NTDs in Nigeria.
He said NTDs including Schistosomiasis, Onchocerciasis, Lymphatic filariasis, Helminthesis, Trachoma and many others are diseases that affect the poorest, vulnerable people who live in hard to reach areas of Africa.
According to him, all the 36 states in Nigeria are endemic to one or more NTDs and 122 million people which is equivalent to two out of every three Nigerians are at risk of the disease, “but can be prevented by keeping the environment clean and drinking clean water.”
Akpan said that even though there is budgeted amount for the fight against the NTDs, he lamented the manner and way it is being release.
This, according to him, poses great challenge in achieving the aim it was meant for. Sometimes, the budgeted funds are not even released at all.
“In Nigeria, funds have always been allocated for NTDs, but the release is epileptic because the country enjoys donor support. It is when we do not have the donor support again, may be, we will wake up and be taking the challenge by ourselves.
“But for now, we still have the donor support so the country will appropriate a huge amount, but the release generally, not only on NTDs, not only in the Federal Ministry of Health, in all the line ministries, the release comes in epileptic way,” he said.
While responding to a question on the specific amount the NTDs programme got in the past two years, he said: “The specific amount varies. In 2020, we were challenge with the issue of COVID-19, over 200 million was appropriated, I believe, 80 percent of the amount was diverted to tackle COVID-19 issue and 20 percent was left for other programmes.
“We had to adjust because we were not sure whether we will meet up with that challenge at that time. In 2021, yes, the funding still came in piece meal. It is only the account section that can give you the total figure.
“But we cannot say that we have not receive anything. We receive wholistic as a public health department and shared it to all departments base on the programmes.
“Today, what we have to NTDs mostly go for snake bite which we use for the procurement of anti-snake bite venom which costs millions of naira.”
On her part, the Deputy Director/Programme Manager, National Schistosomiasis, Dr Biageli Nebe, regretted that since the past few years, the NTDs programme has been surviving by donor support.
“We have the NGO partners that have been supporting us. There are still some states like Bayelsa where there are no NGOs that support them. In Bayelsa, it is UNICEF only that supports them.
“From the national level, no budget was released for the programme for a couple of years now. It is only the NGOs that fund most of our programme,” she said.