The Federal Ministry of Health says no fewer than 122 million people in Nigeria are at risk of getting Neglected Tropical Disease.
Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, Director and National Coordinator of the NTDs Control/Elimination/
The dialogue was organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Anyaike said that NTDs are a group of 20 disease conditions that are common on tropical or sub-tropical regions and are closely associated with poverty, poor sanitation, lack of water sources, substandard housing condition and deficient health care access.
Some of the diseases include Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis), Soil Transmitted Helminthiasis, Onchocerciasis (River blindness), Trachoma (Granular Conjuctivitis) and Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia).
Anyaike said: “The diseases are called neglected because they tend to affect the world’s poorest and received less attention than others diseases.
“It is estimated that 122 million people in Nigeria are affected or at risk of getting NTDs.
“Of the number, 20 per cent are pre-school age children, 28 per cent are school age children and 52 per cent are adults.”
According to him, NTDs have great impact on economy’s growth and should duly be tackled in order to reduce poverty in the country.
Anyaike said: “Sustainable economic development cannot occur without addressing NTDs because we need to have a country free of NTDs.
“The country needs to reduce the morbidity and mortality of the diseases to the barest minimum.
“We need to control, eliminate and eradicate the diseases.”
On some of the strategies to tackle NTDs, he said they should include mass administration of medicines, innovation and intensified disease management, integrated vector management as well as improved water, sanitation and hygiene.
Anyaike called for more funding to address the disease.
The NTDs National Coordinator in Nigeria also emphasised the urgent need for government to strengthen ownership, advocacy and partnership.
He said: “The challenges of the diseases are poor funding, lack of information while some people have wrong ideas about the disease and dirty environment.
“There should be enhanced planning for results resources, mobilisation and financial sustainability of national NTDs programme.”
Geoffrey Njoku, Communication Specialist, UNICEF, said the diseases have been forgotten and that if nothing was done, they might spread the same way COVID-19 did.
Njoku said the objective of the dialogue was for the media to understand why those diseases are neglected.
According to him, the dialogue will also enable the media create more awareness on the diseases.