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PPSN SOUTH-EAST ZONE CALLS ON GOVERNMENT TO ELIMINATE NEGLECTED TROPICAL DISEASES IN NIGERIA
The just concluded maiden symposium of the Parasitology and Public Health Society of Nigeria (PPSN), South-East Zone on the 20th to 22nd of July 2023 with a theme “Security Challenges and its impact on Diagnosis, Treatment and Control of Parasitic Infections in South-East Nigeria ” resolved to call the attention of the government to the economic, social and the health effects of the Neglected Tropical Diseases in Nigeria especially in the areas where there are insecurity, poverty and internal displacement.
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of conditions that are mainly prevalent in tropical areas, where they mostly affect impoverished communities and disproportionately affect women and children. These diseases cause devastating health, social and economic consequences to more than one billion people.
The neglected tropical diseases include but are not limited to onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis, soil-transmitted helminth infections and trachoma. Also among them are dengue fever, leptospirosis, trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis, Buruli ulcer, leprosy and snake-bite envenoming.
The communique released at the end of the symposium is as follows
REPORTED AT THE END OF HER MAIDEN SYMPOSIUM HELD BETWEEN 20TH AND 22ND JUNE, 2023 AT CHUKWUEMEKA ODUMEGWU OJUKWU UNIVERSITY (COOU) IGBARIAM CAMPUS, ANAMBRA STATE BY SOUTHEAST ZONE OF PARASITOLOGY AND PUBLIC HEALTH SOCIETY OF NIGERIA (PPSN)
The conference brought together all the Parasitologists from South Eastern part of Nigeria and colleagues/Entomologists from other zones to discuss security challenges its implications in the elimination of Neglected Tropical diseases in the Country. The conference recognized the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in their order of prevalence and explained their elimination strategies mapped out by the World Health Organization (WHO). There has been strong and huge global support in the control of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria that were perceived most serious health problems among humanity. These control efforts are yielding impressive results. However programs to combat many other neglected diseases, especially in the tropics have not yet benefited from such support. The theme of the day was “Security Challenges and its impact on Diagnosis, Treatment and Control of Parasitic Infections in South-East Nigeria “
Among the themes and subthemes discussed by participants at the symposium were; Rediscovery and Exploring the Role of Parasitologists in Nation building and Female Genital Schistosomiasis; Diagnosis, Treatment, Epidemiology and Control. The keynote speaker was Professor Betram Ekejiuba .B. Nwoke, Professor of Public Health Entomology and Parasitology, Fellow Academy of Science and a consultant, Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDS). Other lead papers were delivered by erudite scholars that included Prof Chinyelu .A. Ekwunife a professor of Public Health Parasitology, a fellow of PPSN and Sub-Dean School of Post-Graduate Studies, Nnamdi Azikiwe University and Prof Denchris N.Onah, a professor of Veterinary Immuno-parasitology, with University of Nigeria Enugu Campus and other presenters that made various presentations on topics surrounding the theme.
The symposium acknowledged the establishment of World Health Organization (WHO) 2015-2020 Preventive Chemotherapy (PC)-Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Road-map, which was committed to control, eliminate or eradicate ten(10) of the NTD diseases by 2020 and improve the lives of over a billion people. It was observed that in Nigeria the 2015-2020 NTD Road- map were not fully met. There were gaps or unforeseen challenges in the implementation during the 2015-2020 NTD Road-map. The symposium observed with utmost disappointment that Nigeria with a population of about 215 million people and with unparalleled potential is currently facing serious challenges in the implementation of Preventive Chemotherapy (PC)-Neglected Tropical Diseases.
The participants noted some challenges, especially created or caused by the Government both at State and National level. Areas of insecurity or challenges identified by the symposium were; Conflict or insecurity, inadequate counterpart funding of Community Directed Treatment with Ivermectin (CDTI) activities, Cross board issues in the interruption of transmission of Onchocerciasis, Demand for incentives by Community Directed Distributors. Declining compliance due to remission of sign and symptoms of some of the PC-NTDs such as Onchocerciasis, poor geographical and Treatment coverage in some areas, Difficult to reach endemic communities. They also observed that the nexus of security shows that security is a prerequisite for health, health services delivery and sustainable development in any nations. The symposium observed alarming level of in security in Nigeria which has increased the crime rate and terrorists attacks in different parts of the country, leaving unpalatable consequences for the nation’s economy, business and Health.
The symposium congratulated all the leaders’ in Government especially those from South-Eastern part of Nigeria. They wish them success, good health and strength to lead our country from consumption to production Nation. We also pray that solving the issues on security challenges will be their utmost priorities.
The symposium also observed that the effects of conflict/security challenges on eliminating PC-NTD has health effects which could be direct or indirect.
Based on the various observations listed above, the symposium resolved and recommended the following:
Enhance collaborative approach between all levels of Government and the masses with regards to security challenges. The Health sector and the academia to ensure immediate take-off on NTD elimination in Nigeria also ensure that this insecurity menace is put to stop.
The symposium called on the Government to –
Stop the underlying ethno-religious tension.
To create job especially for the youth in order to reduce unemployment, poverty and high inflation.
Ministry of Environment to take adequate care of the environment in order to reduce climate change, increased competition for scarce land and so on.
Government to beef up security architecture of Nigeria from local Government to Federal. Curb porous borders, systemic and political corruption and leadership failure.
Armed conflict should stop.
Monitor their environment
Notify security agents
Maintain and keep friendly environment
Work hand in glove with the Government
Maintain good hygiene
Reduction in Migration or internal displacement
Livelihood activities such as Farming and Fishing should be restored.
HEALTH AND ACADEMIA
Government to increase budgetary allocation to Health and Education Sector
Local supervisors should be recruited to strengthen outreach.
Health Sector should enable Mass Drug Administration (MDA) be carried out in areas affected by security challenge.
Research and conferences should be employed by academia to check better approach to curb these NTDs.
More enlightenment approaches in the communities “Gown to Town” method.
Health care personnel staff should be properly paid and taking care of.
Security is a prerequisite for health and insecurity is bad for health.
Among all the challenges encountered during the first WHO Road-map, the issue of security is most serious. These diseases are associated with poverty and causes heavy mortality and morbidity, rob people of their dignity, independence and hope exacerbate poor environment, socio-economy in endemic communities. As a result they are no longer to be taken for granted. However, there were gaps or unforeseen challenges in WHO 2015-2020 NTD Road map in Nigeria as a result of insecurity or security challenges. Hence, there is a need for harmony among security agents, Health sectors, Government, Academia to build or achieve a future-free of Neglected Tropical Diseases(NTDs) in Nigeria and entire Sub-Saharan.
Prof Nkeiruka. M. Orji
PPSN Southeast Zonal