WHO: Nigeria Accounts for 25% of Africa’s Neglected Tropical Disease Burden

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  • Chan, Adewole pledge to tackle NTDs

Paul Obi in Abuja with agency report
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said Nigeria accounted for about 25 per cent of Africa’s Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) burden in the continent.

This was made known at the launch of the Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN) by WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) at the ongoing World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland.

ESPEN, which is a new partnership to help African countries reduce the burden of NTDs, will provide national NTDs with technical and fundraising support to help them control and eliminate NTDs in Nigeria and the rest of the African continent.

In her opening remarks at the launch, the Secretary General of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, pledged the support of WHO to Nigeria and other African governments in moving ESPEN forward to resuscitate moribund efforts at tackling NTDs.

Chan explained that “ESPEN will run from 2016 to 2020 and it is designed to work towards the control and elimination targets established by WHO and endorsed by the London declaration of 2012 on NTDs.”

“The World Health Organisation estimated that more than one billion people including more than 500 million children are affected by NTDs of which 40 per cent live in the African region and Nigeria accounts for 25 per cent of the African burden. The NTDs, though can be prevented and treated, yet they continue to disfigure and disable, destroying lives, preventing children from going to school and keeping communities in cycles of poverty.”

Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who is the head of the Nigerian delegation to the 69th WHA called on African Ministers of Health to work together in bringing NTDs into the health agenda, create awareness around it and ensure that it is no longer neglected.

Adewole contended that “NTDs is a disease of the poor and such efforts at reducing the burden must include poverty reduction” he therefore called on his colleagues to take ownership of ESPEN, put it at the front burner and bring it under a robust domestic financing.

While pointing out the current global economic recession, the minister tasked African health ministers “to look into the limited available resources and re prioritise its activities, work at getting better value for it and make more money available to the programme through prudent allocation of funds to all health related activities.”

Adewole further stated that “Nigeria will situate NTDs within the Primary Health Centres which is being revitalised in the country in order to provide Universal Health Coverage to Nigerians. He added that UHC is one of the flagship projects [UHC] in the Change Agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.

Speaking, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matchidiso Moeti, said the directorate would provide the relevant data, expertise and financial resources required to accelerate the fight against these diseases.

Moeti added that “the NTDs are a group of infections that place a constant and heavy burden primarily on the poorest, most vulnerable communities in the world most of which are located in Africa. These diseases are onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiasis and trachoma.”