Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu
*As Nordica leads campaign
By Patrick Ugeh in Abuja
The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, on Monday charged Society for Obstetrics and Gynaecology of Nigeria, (SOGON) Nigeria Fertility Society (NFS) and other associated professional bodies to embark on cutting edge research to unravel the mystery surrounding endometriosis, a disease that is frequently misdiagnosed and consequently takes up to10 years to properly diagnose.
He made the plea at a ceremony in Abuja to mark the 10th anniversary of Nordica, one of Nigeria's foremost fertility hospitals.
Chukwu said the breakthrough needed to be made quickly because by the time the disease, described as "masquerade", was diagnosed, it would have advanced to a point that it would be difficult to treat, thus causing incalculable pain and infertility.
Patients with the condition, according to the Proprietor of Nordica, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, have 20 per cent less chance of having babies, and about 90 million people suffer from the ailment worldwide.
Chukwu, who was represented by the Director of Family Planning, the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Wapada Balami, said: "The major challenge of women suffering from endometriosis is the delay of recognising the disease and diagnosis by physicians... Several health facilities do not have capacity for prompt diagnosis.
"For instance, the average amount of time it takes for a woman to get an accurate diagnosis from the onset of symptoms is about 10 years. At this time, the adverse effect of the disease progression is enormous and may be difficult to treat."
He solicited for the support of the academia, professional bodies and the private sector, as was being demonstrated by Nordica, because government alone could not bear the entire burden.
"As you are aware, at the moment, there is no reliable data of women suffering from endometriosis which can be used for policy. Therefore, I am using this medium to challenge the professionals, especially SOGON, NFS and the rest of other associated professional bodies to embark on cutting edge research to unveil the mystery surrounding this disease so that Nigerian women could live a happy and productive life."
The minister assured that the Nigerian government would be willing to support such initiative through the tertiary health institutions and designated departments in his ministry.
"I strongly believe that findings from such studies will positively influence policy and programmes in the country.
As part of its effort in tackling the disease, Nordica assembled experts, including a Harvard University Associate Professor, Keith Isaacson, to seek solutions to endometriosis.
In his own welcome speech, Ajayi lamented that the situation was worse in Africa because very little was known about the condition. As a result, he said, women lived with it without ever being diagnosed.
"As a socially responsible organisation," he said, "we at Nordica Fertility Centre, a foremost assisted conception centre..., in conjunction with the Endometriosis Support Group (the only support group for endometriosis in sub-Saharan Africa) have joined other organisations in the world to comfort these great women (living with the condition) and tell them that despite the pain, they are not alone. We shall support them emotionally and medically."
Former beauty queen, Miss Nike Oshinowo, was named the face of Endometriosis.