Onchocerciasis: Nigeria To Finalise Implementation Guideline By December, As 50 million Nigerians Are At Risk

Nigeria is expected to finalise theOnchocerciasis Implementation Guideline before December 2021, for stopping mass drug administration and verifying elimination of human onchocerciasis: criteria and procedures.

This was made known at the “Media Dialogue on Neglected Tropical Disease Control in Nigeria” organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, in collaboration with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).

Human onchocerciasis (river blindness) is a disease of the skin and eye caused by Onchocerca volvulus, a parasitic worm transmitted by Simulium species (black flies) that breed in fast-fl owing rivers and streams.

The disease is endemic in 31 countries in subSaharan Africa, three countries in Latin America and in Yemen. Since 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) has verified three countries in Latin America as free of human onchocerciasis.

The Programme Manager, National Onchocerciasis Elimination Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Nicholas Olobio while giving Updates on National Onchocerciasis Elimination Treatment with ivermectin started in1989. while In 1997, the Community Directed Treatment with Ivermectin (CDTI) strategy was adopted as the main strategy of programme implementation.

“At inception Nigeria had interventions covering 32 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Now 27 States and FCT. About 50 million persons in Nigeria are at risk of onchocerciasis.”

Dr Nicholas Olobio observed that recent epidemiological and entomological studies revealed that transmission of Onchocerciasis has been interrupted in Plateau, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Kebbi and Zamfara States.

“More than 2.0 million persons are no longer in need of MDA for onchocerciasis in the endemic Local Government Areas of Plateau and Nasarawa States, More than 2.2 million persons are no longer in need of MDA for onchocerciasis in the 16 endemic Local Government Areas of Kaduna State.”

“More than 2.7 million persons are no longer in need of MDA for onchocerciasis in the 15 endemic Local Government Areas of Kebbi and Zamfara States Delta, Ekiti, Yobe, Oyo and Bauchi States are suspected to have interrupted Onchocerciasis transmission.”

On his part, the National Coordinator of NTDs, Dr. Nseobong Akpan, observed that Nigeria is battling with the fifteen out of the twenty identified Neglected Tropicsl Diseases.

“The preventive NTDs are those tropical diseases that can be prevented through cleanliness and other control measures such as Trachoma, Onchocerciasis, and others while the case management NTDs such as leprosy, snakebites Yaws Rabies among others, are to be managed medically,”

According to him,” Lack of funds, lack of awareness and epileptic release of funds for the elimination of NTDs are the major challenges the programme faces in Nigeria.”

In an interview with newsmen, UNICEF Water Sanitation and Hygiene Specialist, Mr Bioye Ogunjobi, noted that the UN agency was supporting 12 states in Nigeria for NTDs control interventions across the South West, South-South, North West, North East and North Central and most of these states require further support by the government.

“Most state government do not invest in NTDs, we want them to invest in NTD control interventions, because these are diseases that are affecting the vulnerable in their states.

Mr Ogunjobi who explained that the Nigerian NTDs programmes were mainly sponsored by partners, called on the federal and state governments to get more involved.

He blamed the lack of political will and non-release of counterpart fundings as a challenge to the elimination of NTDs

Some of the Neglected Tropical Diseases include; Lymphatic Filariasis ( Elephantiasis), Soil Transmitted Helminthiasis (STH), Onchocerciasis (River blindness), Trachoma (Granular Conjunctivitis) and Schistosomiasis.

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