By Asmau Ahmad
The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has urged the Nigerian government to prioritise the eradication of leprosy, one of the oldest diseases known to mankind, from Nigeria.
The NMA made the call in a press statement it released signed by its chairman, National Committee on Neglected Tropical Diseases, Dr. Sebastine Oiwoh.
The association called for sustained funding from the Federal and states government in the fight for the total eradication of the disease from the country.
According to the statement, the NMA president, Dr. Uche Ojinmah, while speaking on the occasion of World Leprosy Day, 2023, reiterated that there is a need for the Nigerian nation to Act Now and End Leprosy using the theme of the 2023 WLD.
He called for commitment and political will for the eradication of the health condition.
The NMA, however, commended the efforts made at controlling and eliminating leprosy while calling for more concerted efforts to meet the target of zero leprosy in 120 countries by 2030, in tandem with the Sustainable Development Goal target.
It also reiterated that timely prevention or early diagnosis from the time a patient has that painless skin discoloration will help prevent the disability that later occurs.
The press release partly reads, “Leprosy is an ancient, stigmatizing, infectious neglected tropical disease of man caused by Mycobacterium leprae. It is one of the oldest diseases of mankind that, despite previous successes, has recently seen a downward global trend of diagnosis following the simultaneous COVID-19 pandemic.
“This caused a 30 per cent drop below the 200,000 people annually diagnosed with leprosy before COVID-19, according to the World Health Organisation. This disabling disease has plagued mankind for at least 4000 years through respiratory droplet infection as well as by prolonged contact.
“Depending on the burden of infection, it affects the lining of the upper respiratory tract, the skin, the peripheral nerves, and the eyes among others. It must be noted that it is not spread through casual contact like shaking hands or hugging, sharing meals, or sitting next to a person with leprosy.
“It is curable and preventable if adequate health education, early presentation to the hospital with prompt diagnosis followed by timely treatment initiation, and adequate and sustained surveillance are ensured.”
The committee called for more realistic collaboration among crucial stakeholders stressing that “it is possible to eliminate leprosy but the time to start is NOW as we have the power and tools to stop transmission and defeat this disease.”