By Izunna Okafor, Awka
Over six million individuals in Anambra State state are at risk of being infected with one or more types of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), while about 80 per cent are targeted annually to receive preventive chemotherapy against the diseases in the state.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Afam Obidike, stated this over the week at a news conference on NTDs interventions to mark the 2023 World NTDs Day, in Awka, the state capital.
The event themed: “Act Now, Act Together, Invest in Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases’’ is marked globally every year to re-energise the drive to end the suffering from NTDs. NTDs are caused by a variety of pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and toxins.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Obidike described NTDs as preventable communicable diseases prevalent in areas with poor sanitation, inadequate safe water supply, and sub-standard housing conditions.
According to him, the diseases are considered neglected because they enjoy little funding, are almost absent from the global health agenda and are associated with stigma and social exclusion.
He identified Onchocerciasis (known as River Blindness), Lymphatic Filariasis (popularly known as Elephantiasis), Schistosomiasis, and Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis, as the NTDs endemic in the state.
He further revealed that Anambra Government, in partnership with the Carter Centre, treated over 4.7 million persons of the four major Neglected Tropical Diseases in the state in 2022; while a total of 2,867 health workers were trained in 2022, on the detection, treatment, management, and prevention of NTDs, also in partnership with the Carter Centre.
“Over six million individuals in the state are at risk of being infected with one or more types of NTDs and 80 per cent are targeted annually to receive preventive chemotherapy against the diseases.
“In 2020, 1.2 million persons were treated, 3.1 million persons were treated in 2021 and a total of 4,768,342 persons were treated in 2022.
“In partnership with the Carter Centre, 2,867 health workers were trained in 2022, on the detection, treatment, management, and prevention of NTDs.
“Today, every prevailing NTDs in the state is currently receiving public health attention,’’ he said.
The Commissioner said that Gov. Chukwuma Soludo’s administration invested in NTDs programmes to scale up sensitisation in endemic communities.
He, however, urged residents to support the government’s efforts by sleeping under a treated mosquito net, reporting cases of Elephantiasis to the nearest health centre, and assisting in searching fast-flowing rivers for Blackfly control.
Speaking, the Anambra Programme Officer, Carter Centre, Mrs. Egeonu Attamah-Isiani, said the centre had been partnering with the state since 1995 to control and eliminate NTDs.
“We have been providing technical and financial supporting to the state, facilitating capacity building, drugs provision, and distribution to interrupt NTDs transmission,” she said.
In his remarks, Prof. Dennis Aribodor of the Parasitology and Public Health Society of Nigeria urged the state government to invest and partner with the society in the area of research and data gathering on NTDs, to further tame the disease in the state.