Nigeria’s reliance on donation funding as well as epileptic release of allocation for critical programs such as health has put many Nigerians at risk of tropical diseases.
It is estimated that over 50 percent of Nigerians are at risk of being infected by one or more neglected tropical disease, as 2 in every 3 Nigerian is exposed to a risk factor.
This was disclosed by health experts at the Media Dailogue, organised by the United Nations Children Fund, the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health in Port Harcourt.
Neglected tropical diseases which are preventable and treatable diseases could be caused by viruses, bacteria, protozoa and prevalent among poor and vulnerable people living in hard-to-reach areas of Nigeria and Africa.
The National Coordinator, Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Elimination Programme in Nigeria, Nse Akpan, in his presentation noted that the epileptic release of fund and over reliance on international donations has so far hindered Nigeria’s fight against tropical diseases.
According to him, these diseases often lead to end-organ damages, reduced physical and cognitive development among others.
Examples of these diseases includes Schistosomiasis, Onchocerciasis, Lymphatic filariasis, Helminthesis, Trachoma and many others.
He said, “In Nigeria, funds have always been allocated for NTDs, but the release is epileptic. I will not be shy. Why is the release so epileptic? The reason is that this is a country we enjoy donor support. It is when we do not have the donor support again, may be, we will wake up and be taking the challenge by ourselves.
“But for now, we still have the donor support so the country will appropriate a huge amount, but the release generally, not only on NTDs, not only in the Federal Ministry of Health, in all the line ministries, the release comes in epileptic way.”
He called on governments at all levels to release at least five percent of their total annual budget to fast track elimination of NTD in Nigeria.
Akpan said that all states in the country are endemic to one or more NTDs as 122 million people are at risk of the disease.
“Governments should use NTD endemicity to prioritize provision of safe water sources nationwide, as was the case when Nigeria was Guinea worm endemic.
“Give NTDs same priority and visibility that are given to HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.
“Inadequate and sometimes lack of information about these diseases, poor hygiene, lack of access to potable drinking water, among others also threaten this fight against NTDs.
“It can be prevented by keeping the environment clean and drinking clean water,” he added.