Chief Emole Egbulefu, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health in Abia, says the state government will evolve policies and programmes to eradicate Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in the state.
Egbulefu said this on Thursday during a news conference organised by the ministry to mark the 2020 World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Day with the theme, “Beat NTDs: For good, For all”.
He also said that NTDs were a group of diseases that were common among people living in poor hygienic environments.
He said that recorded cases of NTDs in Abia included river blindness, lymphatic filariasis, Hydrocele, soil-transmitted helminths and schistosomiasis
Egbulefu said that Abia government decided to mark the day in order to also celebrate the “hard-earned progress” achieved in controlling the scourge of NTDs in the state.
He said that Abia government had made tremendous achievements in the control of NTDs and was making concerted efforts to eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis and soil-transmitted Helminthes in 2022.
According to him, about 2.8 million persons across the 17 local government areas in Abia have been treated annually with Mectizan and Albendazole for the control of river blindness, soil-transmitted Helminthiasis and Lymphatic Filariasis since 2015.
Egbulefu said, “In 2019, about 7.8 million tabs of Mectizan and 2.8 million tabs of Albendazole were distributed in the state.”
He called on non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations and philanthropists to support the annual distribution of Mectizan and Albendazole to meet the elimination target of NTDs in Abia.
The ministry’s Director of Public Health, Dr Onyechere Nwokocha, said the celebration of the day would help to increase awareness about the diseases.
Nwokocha said that NTDs could be erroneously attributed to spiritual problems, hence the need to intensify public education about the causes and management of the diseases.
He said, “Educate people to become aware that these diseases are treatable because, if left untreated, they can predispose the patient to terminal illnesses,” he further said.
Earlier, the Manager of NTDs in Abia, Mr Solomon Offor, said that mappings conducted in the state revealed that NTDs were endemic in the 17 local government areas.
“Everybody in the state is at risk, especially if you don’t take the medicine.
“We are doing preventive therapy with Mectizan and Albendazole, which interrupts transmission.
“Since 2014, we have had five successive rounds of treatment, which involved the distribution of drugs and conducting of independent surgeries.“And we are about to commence another round of treatment, which will involve the treatment of persons with mobility problems, such as swollen breast, elephantiasis and river blindness.”
Also, the Programme Officer of Carter Centre in Abia, Mrs Nnenna Ukairo, said that the centre, together with Abia government, was actively working with people from 355 villages in Abia.
Ukairo said that the centre was running a community-directed distribution programme that actively engaged members of every rural community in the activities of the centre in tackling NTDs.
January 30 every year has been set aside to celebrate NTDs worldwide by USAID and stakeholders working to eradicate the diseases.