The Federal Government, Sightsavers Nigeria, and other Non-governmental organisations are developing a national guideline for the management of morbidity and disability induced by Neglected Tropical Diseases in the country.
NTDs are a diverse group of 20 conditions that are mainly prevalent in tropical areas, where they affect more than one billion people who live in impoverished communities. They are caused by a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and toxins. These diseases cause devastating health, social and economic consequences to more than one billion people.
Nigeria is one of the most endemic countries in the world for NTDs.
Speaking at the Sightsavers Nigeria morbidity management and disability prevention meeting in Abuja, the National Coordinator of the NTDs Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health, Nse Akpan said the guidelines would eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, popularly called elephantiasis, among others.
“We want to ensure that the guidelines address the burden of the people, the disease and work towards interruption and elimination of it.
“The goal of the global community is to ensure that we eliminate these diseases and people are not infected or end up with a disability. When we interrupt at the early stage, we will be able to reduce the burden of disability,’’ he said.
Akpan said poor sanitation, misconception, and attachment of NTDs to myths, spiritual attacks, or superstitions were some of the challenges affecting the elimination of the disease.
He stressed the need for access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene facilities, sensitisation exercises in communities, and full implementation of the guidelines to be developed toward eliminating NTDs.
“The prevention varies as some are prevented with drugs, hygiene, and sanitation packages. The disease is more common among the poor, downtrodden areas, where we have slums, shanties, and unhygienic environments. We educate people on how to stay in a hygienic environment, do sanitation practices, and when infected, they should access treatment and drugs,’’ he said.
Also, the Senior Program Manager, NTDs Sightsavers Nigeria, Anita Gwom said the guideline would enable stakeholders to implement programmes towards eliminating NTDs.
She said “It is important because we have a target and a timeline for the elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis in Nigeria by 2030. We are hoping all the states in Nigeria would have eliminated the disease in all the local government areas that are endemic to this disease based on the global target.
Gwom also stressed the need for more enlightenment to reduce the prevalence of the disease and stop the stigmatisation of affected persons with disabilities caused by NTDs.
“At the community level, we have stigmatisation affecting persons with disabilities due to these diseases. So we try to create awareness and ensure that we deliver quality services because when we do that, the patients usually come back and become advocates to support the elimination of NTDs,’’ she said.