By Adedapo Adesanya
The Nigerian government, recognising the plight of many Nigerians, has initiated plans to eradicate communicable diseases among people exposed to the abuse of drugs as a huge chunk of her population experience an untold effect of drug use among the youths.
According to Mr Mashood Lawal, Director Food and Drugs, Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), “Nigeria, with her huge population continues to experience an untold effect of drug use especially among youth.”
This aligns with official statistics sourced from the UN World Drug Report, which according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that 271 million people globally.
Moreover, there is a higher danger because some of these drugs are injectable, which aside leading to death has been linked transmission of communicable diseases including HIV, Hepatitis C, Tuberculosis and a host of other blood-borne infections.
WHO says, people who inject drugs (PWID) account for 10 percent of HIV infections and about 23% of new Hepatitis C infections, while Tuberculosis is a leading AIDS-defining illness and cause of mortality among people living with HIV who inject drugs.
Government, in takling this grave ill, is making concerted efforts to address communicable diseases associated with drug use. This is being achieved through programming for key population groups within various national programmes focusing mainly on behavioral change and preventive interventions, including attempts at biomedical support and dilatory effects.
Drug abuse victims have contributed to exposing the grave ill that this behaviour has had on their lives, paramount is Ali, who lives in the suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and recently diagnosed to be co-infected with Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV.
“I have been injecting drugs for a long time and we share syringes,” he says.
Consequent to difficulties of life in the streets, Mr Ali was exposed to drug use as early as age 10 and started using injectable drugs when he was 14. “I wish I can stop now though, but It is very difficult” he laments
With this compelling evidence, WHO advocated to FMoH for the need to define a health response for the drug control. Hence, the National Programme on Drug Demand and Harm Reduction (NDDHR) which is closely linked to the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) was established in May 2019 with the mandate of coordinating the health sector response to drug use. A National technical working group (TWG) was inaugurated to support the take-off of the programme.
“Since inception of the programme, WHO has been at the forefront, leading other partners including the UN Organization for Drug Control, Global Fund and national stakeholders to support the government to develop a policy statement and strategy which will be incorporated into the National Drug Control Master Plan,” states Dr Rex Mpazanje, Communicable/Non communicable diseases cluster lead for WHO Nigeria.
“Similarly, a road map and National guideline for the implementation of a needle and syringe program (NSP) geared towards the elimination of communicable among PWID was developed. The NSP which is being funded through the Global Fund with technical support from WHO isexpected to be piloted in 3 states across the country in the coming months,” he added.
Beyond communicable diseases, WHO is concerned with other health and social burdens associated with drug use. Therefore, efforts will continue to be made to enhance public health actions by providing the required leadership, strengthening partnerships and collaboration between government and health institutions towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 2030.
Malaria: Nova Diamond Launches Give A Net Campaign
By Adedapo Adesanya
In commemoration of World Malaria Day for the year 2022, Nova Diamond Foundation has launched a campaign called Give a Net, ave Lives.
The Give a Net campaign is targeted to protect the most vulnerable in society, including pregnant women and children under the age of 5 because of the increased death rate, according to WHO 2021 Malaria report.
WHO described malaria as the 3rd highest killer non-communicable disease as the disease kills four in every five malaria cases in Nigeria. Malaria is the number one endemic in the country, which also has the highest number of malaria-related deaths.
To address this issue and reduce malaria-related deaths, Nova Diamond Foundation has partnered with the Lagos State Ministry of Health to educate residents on the danger posed by malaria.
The organisation also worked in partnership with Mobaby Care to walk the streets of Lagos, starting with Agboyi LCDA under Kosofe LGA, Mascara Primary Health Centre and Alapere Primary Health Centre, Ketu. These health facilities were visited between Monday, April 25 and Wednesday, April 27, 2022.
During the visits, pregnant mothers and children were given some malaria prevention incentives like Insecticides Treated Nets (ITNS) and mosquito repellant creams from Mobaby Care.
The executive director of Nova Diamond Foundation, Mrs Oluwafikayo Ooju, sensitised the participants on how to protect their unborn children, toddlers and themselves from malaria by ensuring that they always sleep under an insecticide-treated net.
She also lectured them on keeping their environment clean from stagnant water, ensuring children are well covered up and use of repellant to the exposed parts of the body.
In addition, she educated them on how to identify the symptoms of malaria as well as the need to visit the primary health centres for proper diagnosis and treatment immediately after they notice any symptoms.
In her remarks, the Medical Officer in charge of Agboyi LCDA, Dr Mariam Oshodi, commended the effort of the foundation and also advised the beneficiaries to use all the incentives distributed to them.
The team intends to visit other primary health centres across Lagos state and hopes to reach at least 1,000 pregnant mothers and 1000 children aged 0-5.
FG to Intensify Fight Against Female Genital Mutilation
By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government has said it will intensify efforts to eliminate the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria as it pursues the realisation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) 2030.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Women Affairs, Ms Dame Tallen, at the launch of the Movement For Good To End FGM in Nigeria organised by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs in collaboration with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
Ms Tallen noted that the procedure of FGM has no health benefit for girls and women.
FGM involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice is mostly carried out by traditional practitioners.
Speaking, she said, “Available statistics show that Nigeria has the highest number of cases of FGM in the world accounting for about 115 million out of 130 million circumcised women worldwide.
“The South-South zone with 77 per cent among adult women has the highest prevalence of the practice in Nigeria. This is followed by the South-East zone with 68 per cent and South-West zone with 65 per cent. The Northern part of Nigeria is also not free from this practice.”
She described “FGM as a traditional practice inflicted on girls and women worldwide and it is widely recognized as a violation of human rights, which is deeply rooted in cultural beliefs and perceptions over decades and generations.
“The resulting outcome of FGM are adverse pain and haemorrhage, infection, acute urinary retention following such trauma, damage to the urethra or anus.
“During the procedure, the victim would struggle through an experience which leads to chronic pelvic infection, dysmenorrhea, retention cysts, sexual difficulties, obstetric complications, bleeding, prolonged labour leading to fistula formation amongst others. The mental and psychological agony attached to FGM is deemed the most serious complication because the problem does not manifest outwardly for help to be offered.
“The continuous practice of FGM denies girls and women the right to quality education, opportunities for decent work and their health particularly sexual and reproductive are threatened.”
The United Nations (UN) Resident, and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr Matthias Schmale said the prevalence of FGM amongst girls up to 14 years old is still on the rise.
Mr Schmale said 86 per cent of these children were mutilated before the age of Five, meaning FGM is greatest in the early years of life.
“What this tells us is that the perpetrators of this harmful practice are devising ways to circumvent surveillance and diminish the gains recorded over the years towards the eradication of FGM in Nigeria, by targeting infants who neither knows nor understand the enormity or magnitude of the practice they are being subjected to,” he said.
He explained that the practice of FGM which is handed over from generation to generation and culturally justified is no longer acceptable.
He noted that this practice violates women’s and girls’ rights to life, health, and dignity as well as their bodily autonomy.
“The time to end FGM in Nigeria is now and the responsibility to do so lies with us all,” he said.
The French Ambassador to Nigeria, Mrs Emmanuelle Blatmann, on her part said at least 200 women worldwide have undergone genital mutilation and more might be affected in the coming years.
Ms Blatmann said FGM contravenes the rights of every woman.
“Indeed to promote the elimination of this scourge, coordinated and systematic efforts involving everyone are needed,” she said.
WHO Warns as Cases of Measles Rise 400% in Q1 2022
By Adedapo Adesanya
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that Africa is witnessing a surge in outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases over the past year.
This came as almost 17,500 cases of measles were recorded in the region between January and March 2022, marking a 400 per cent increase compared with the same period in 2021.
According to the world health authority, 20 African countries reported measles outbreaks in the first quarter of this year, eight more than that in the first three months of 2021.
It also warned that outbreaks from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccines have also become more common due to inequalities in accessing vaccines as well as COVID-19 has strained the health systems.
Twenty-four countries confirmed outbreaks of a variant of polio in 2021, which is four more than in 2020. In 2021, 13 countries reported new yellow fever outbreaks in the African region, compared to nine in 2020 and three in 2019.
Speaking on this, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa explained that even as the continent focused on fighting COVID-19, there needs to be special attention to other health challenges.
“The rise in outbreaks of other vaccine-preventable diseases is a warning sign. As Africa works hard to defeat COVID-19, we must not forget other health threats. Health systems could be severely strained not only by COVID-19 but by other diseases.
“Vaccines are at the heart of a successful public health response, and as countries restore services, routine immunization must be at the core of revived and resilient health systems.”
WHO expects countries to attain and maintain measles vaccination coverage of 95 per cent with two doses to reach measles elimination. In 2019, six countries in the African region attained 95 per cent coverage with first dose measles vaccination, while only three met this target in 2020, according to estimates.
On his part, Dr Benido Impouma, Director, Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases Cluster at WHO Regional Office for Africa said while mass vaccination campaigns are the quickest way to administer a large volume of vaccines, WHO is committed to supporting countries to strengthen essential, primary health care services to deliver COVID-19 vaccines. The longer-term solutions will likely see benefits to communities beyond COVID-19.
“Routine immunization, a long-established practice in many African countries, has been severely strained by the impact of COVID-19. In the wake of this pandemic, we are committed to support countries devise smart approaches to scale up both COVID-19 vaccination and restore and expand routine immunization services,” he said.
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