By Asmau Ahmad
The National Coordinator of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), Dr Nse Akpan, says the prevalence of the diseases in Nigeria was dropping gradually.
He said this on Monday in Abuja while speaking to newsmen on the sidelines of the NTDs Master Plan Development Workshop (2022-2026).
According to him, in some states, some of these diseases had been eliminated completely while in some others had been interrupted.
NTDs are composed of approximately 20 diseases affecting people living in sub-tropical environments where access to proper sanitation and healthcare was limited.
They impact approximately 1.6 billion people in 149 countries around the world; affecting those who live in poverty and have limited access to adequate healthcare, clean water and sanitation facilities.
NTDs cause illness, death, disability and disfigurement, resulting in stigma, social exclusion, school absenteeism and lost productivity.
This made the World Health Organisation (WHO), to come up with a road map for elimination by 2030.
Akpan said that though Nigeria still has a high burden of the diseases due to unsafe health, sanitation and water practices.
The Federal Government, alongside other partners and collaborators, were working to reduce the burden.
“The country needs to sit down, develop a plan on how to tackle these diseases in the country. WHO gave us a mandate that the country needs to work towards eliminating these tropical diseases between now and 2030.
“If you look at the data, we just have eight years to achieve that and yes we have started. Hopefully, with this new plan that is coming up and with all the stakeholders we should be able to achieve at least 80 per cent elimination,” he said.
Akpan said the plan will be ready and disseminated soon.
He also confirmed that out of the about 20 different NTDs known worldwide, Nigeria was facing 15 of them with each having its own burden.
Speaking about the nature of the diseases, he said that they were called neglected because they mostly affected the low-income earners and poor people and so tended to be neglected and ignored.
Apan said: “It is eating deep and these diseases have impacted a lot on the economic situation of the country.
“You will look at people going out with some deformities because of these diseases and sometimes they do not even know it and attribute it to witches and wizards in the village.”
Akpan said that some of the diseases include schistosomiasis which deals with worms, elephantiasis, river blindness, trachoma and intestinal worm among others.
The WHO NTDs Focal Point for Nigeria, Dr Suleiman Aliyu, advocated for a holistic document that would encompass all the issues and probable solutions to enable the nation achieve its goal by 2030.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Water and Sanitation Officer, Mr Job Ominyi, assured of the organisation’s commitment to support Nigeria in the fight against NTDs.
He also assured of prompt distribution of drugs for the treatment of the diseases as they come into Nigeria.
Highpoint of the workshop was award given to seven awardees comprising of state governments, individuals and organisations that were enabling the elimination of NTDs in Nigeria.