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.
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