2023 World NTDs Day: Dependency Bane Of Eliminating Diseases – Ehanire 

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The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has said that dependency will not help the country end Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), caused by bacteria, since there are problems in the country. 

He said this at the country’s commemoration of the 2023 World Leprosy Day today (January 30, 2023) in Abuja. 

Science Nigeria reports that, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the disease predominantly affects the skin and peripheral nerves. Left untreated, the disease may cause progressive and permanent disabilities.

Ehanire said that Nigerians needed to prepare themselves to support efforts by the government to keep the 2030 targets of eliminating NTDs in the country. 

“It is important to note that control and elimination of NTDs in Nigeria will significantly contribute to the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and all hands must be on deck to achieve this,” he said. 

The minister stated that the country has about 25 per cent of all NTDs in Africa, with millions of persons at risk: lymphatic filariasis-122 million, onchocerciasis- 33 million, schistosomiasis- 20.8 million, soil-transmitted helminths- 29.4 million, trachoma- 5.3 million and human African trypanosomiasis- 6.5 million people, respectively.

Ehanire said the country has reviewed its NTD Masterplan 2023–2027 and, thus, enjoined stakeholders to use the document as a guide for the attainment of the goals.

“Nigeria supports efforts to engage other disease endemic nations, partners and stakeholders to contribute to the development of the “Kigali Declaration on NTDs”, as proof of our collective commitment to partnership for ownership of the strategic document, as in the WHO road map.

“Substantial progress has been made in the past decade, evidenced by the Guineaworm disease eradication in 2013, onchocerciasis transmission elimination in Plateau and Nasarawa States in 2019, with imminent prospects of Kaduna, Kebbi and Zamfara states being free of the disease soon, leaving us with fewer endemic states, and over 28 million persons no longer needing treatment,” he said. 

According to him, other achievements by the ministry include epidemiological mapping of preventable NTDs in all the 774 LGAs. Ongoing mass administration of medicines in school-based and community deworming programmes.

“So far, 106 of 126 trachoma endemic LGAs ending treatment and attaining elimination threshold, with 30 million persons, who were at risk of going blind from trachoma, reducing their risk to about 3.5 million. The NTD Programme has managed 70 per cent of 200,000 persons in the backlog for trachoma surgeries,” he explained. 

Ehanire said that the National Policy and Training Manuals on Snakebite management developed along with procurement of Anti-Snake venom (ASV) and anti-rabies vaccines and distributed to designated health facilities in all six geopolitical zones.

The minister added that a case search for yaws was conducted in three communities in Plateau and Nasarawa states and over 40 cases were found. Noting that further case searches were ongoing in Borno, Bauchi, Kebbi and Taraba states.

National professional officer, NTD, World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Aliyu Suleiman, said that in 2022, the country conducted an assessment for lymphatic filariasis in 200 LGAs out of 583 endemic LGAs. 

“As of today, we have less than 300 LGAs needing assessment before stopping mass drug administration for this disease,” he said 

Suleiman said that the health organisation is advocating for the NTD stakeholders and the country to Keep NTD services accessible through innovation, strengthen NTD integration, cross-sector collaborations and mainstreaming, for stronger country ownership and accountability and Invest sustainably in NTDs for the best returns. 

“We ask that the country stay committed to the delivery on the NTD road map 2021-2030, especially with the launch of the 2023-2027 master plan, address shortages of funds and medicines and foster partnerships,” he reasoned. 

The Minister of State for Health, Mr. Joseph Ekumankama said that the efforts put in place by the government to tackle these diseases have started yielding results as the burden of these diseases is reducing drastically in some states. 

Ekumankama said that he is optimistic that with the rate at which the government is tackling these diseases, the country would soon meet up with the global target of eliminating some of these diseases before the end of 2030. 

Nigeria participated in the first World NTDs Day held on January 30, 2020.

The theme of 2023 NTD Day is: “Act now. Act together. Invest in Neglected Tropical Diseases” and it supports efforts to keep 2030 targets on track with innovative and sustainable financing. 

The NTD also re-energizes the momentum to end the suffering from these 20 diseases, caused by a variety of pathogens, viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and toxins etc.

Racheal Abujah
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