An international development organisation, Sightsavers, has commended the Nigerian government for its ambitious new pledge to end the scourge of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
At the Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, on June 23 and during the signing of the Kigali Declaration on neglected tropical diseases earlier this year, the government pledged to increase funding and resources across the country to support the elimination of NTDs and strengthen collaboration (especially for water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives, WASH).
A statement by the organisation said more than 165 million people in Nigeria are at risk of poverty-linked diseases, including trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, intestinal worms and river blindness. These diseases cause excruciating pain (and, sometimes, kill) stop children from learning and adults from earning and trap communities in cycles of poverty.
The Kigali Summit was a once-in-a-decade chance for world leaders to come together to put global control and elimination of these diseases back on track and commit to end the pain and economic harm they cause.
Sightsavers’ country director, Nigeria, Sunday Isiyaku said: “The Nigerian government has stepped up and made important commitments. Our country faces one of the biggest burdens from neglected tropical diseases across Africa and we need strong leadership to banish them.
“Nigeria has made great strides in the fight against these diseases – with support from Sightsavers and partners. Five states have already interrupted transmission of river blindness and more are close. We must make sure that new challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change don’t threaten progress.
“Treatment and prevention for NTDs need to be integrated into the health system and pressure must be kept up even as the country gets closer to elimination. The government’s pledge recognises that access to clean water, hygiene and good sanitation are fundamental to stopping the spread of NTDs. Achieving this will require people from different parts of our health sector to work together and with others – such as the people responsible for planning infrastructure.”
Sightsavers has supported NTD interventions in Nigeria for nearly three decades, starting with river blindness in 1994 and, now, includes lymphatic filariasis (LF), schistosomiasis, trachoma and intestinal worms into its programmes. This includes supporting community volunteers to go door-to-door to make sure that no one misses drug treatments, surgery for advanced trachoma and hydrocele (caused by LF), as well as surveys and surveillance.