Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said about 100 million Nigerians are currently faced with the risk of some tropical diseases such as Guinea worm, leprosy, elephantiasis, river blindness, rabies and sleeping sickness.
He said the disease prevalence could be linked to high poverty level and lack of basic healthcare facilities in most rural areas of the country.
Speaking at the first World NTD Day in Abuja organised by the Federal Ministry of Health in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday, the minister said Nigeria’s large population exposes it to ‘endemicity’, adding that NTDs are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa with millions of children trapped in the cycle of diseases.
He described NTD as a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevailed in tropical and sub-tropical conditions.
According to him, “They (NTDs) are singled out because of the adverse impact they have and their relative obscurity and availability of tools to combat them. Grouping the diseases together is a strategy to bring attention to these often overlooked causes of misery. People afflicted are usually poor, vulnerable and left on their own to face the debilitating consequence of the NTDs.”
Ehanire said there are over 20 of these diseases in the country.
He said: “Nigeria’s large population makes it a prominent endemic country for NTDs in sub-Saharan Africa with over 100 million persons or more at risk of the NTDs in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
“Most of the affected persons live in locations under poor conditions with limited or no access to basic education and healthcare amenities like potable water, sanitation or knowledge of hygiene.
“NTDs can result in blindness, deafness, and various forms of physical disabilities or disfigurement. A child suffering from NTDs shies away from attending schools and grows up with no skill. He is hindered by basic occupation like farming and fishing or any avenue of earning a living. They are trapped in cycle of diseases and poverty.”