JCI Nigeria Moves to End Stigmatization of Leprosy Patients
By Dipo Olowookere
In a bid to educate and advocate for dehumanization of lepers in the society, Junior Chamber International (JCI) Nigeria in collaboration with NIPPON Foundation, Japan, is embarking on a thorough sensitization tagged ‘Think Leprosy Now’.
The campaign is a social responsibility initiative geared at creating conducive environment for leapers and educating all stakeholders to play an important role.
The ‘Think Leprosy Now’ is a global appeal which came out of the need for change designed to restore hope and dignity to people living with leprosy and how they should be perceived. The campaign will take the organisation on a work to the major leprosy colony in Lagos, Abeokuta, Ogbomoso, Enugu and Abuja
Commenting at the programme kick off, the immediate National President, JCI Nigeria, JCI Ambassador Olatunji Oyeyemi said ” a lot of Nigerians do not know that leprosy is a curable disease and this has resulted in unnecessary stigmatisation of victims.
He also reiterated that if the public understands the disease better, people affected with leprosy will feel freer to seek treatment at most general hospitals where treatment is free instead of isolating them. “Let’s give them an opportunity to contribute to the development of the society and also to live like every one of us by working together to support them, also having an all-inclusive mindset to ensuring and creating awareness and sensitization nationwide” he added
Leprosy is primarily a granulomatous disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract; skin lesions (light or dark patches) are the primary external sign. If untreated, leprosy can progress and cause permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes. Contrary to folklore, leprosy does not cause body parts to fall off, although they can become numb or diseased as a result of secondary infections; these occur as a result of the body’s defenses being compromised by the primary disease secondary infections, in turn, can result in tissue loss, causing fingers and toes to become shortened and deformed, as cartilage is absorbed into the body
However, leprosy is actually not that contagious. You can catch it only if you come into close and repeated contact with nose and mouth droplets from someone with untreated leprosy. Children are more likely to get leprosy than adults.
It usually takes about 3 to 5 years for symptoms to appear after coming into contact with the leprosy-causing bacteria. Some people do not develop symptoms until 20 years later. The time between contact with the bacteria and the appearance of symptoms is called the incubation period. Leprosy’s long incubation period makes it very difficult for doctors to determine when and where a person with leprosy got infected.
Today, about 180,000 people worldwide are infected with leprosy, according to the World Health Organization, most of them in Africa and Asia. About 100 people are diagnosed with leprosy in the U.S. every year, mostly in the South, California, Hawaii, and some U.S. territories.
To be part of this life saving campaign, join us on our various social media platforms : #ThinkLeprosyNow, #JELLS, @thinkleprosynow www.facebook.com/thinkleprosynow, on Instagram and twitter.
JCI is a non-profit organization of young active citizens age 18 to 40 who are engaged and committed to creating impact in their communities. Active citizens are individuals invested in the future of our world. JCI gathers active citizens from all sectors of society. We develop the skills, knowledge and understanding to make informed decisions and take action. As globally minded young people, we all have rights, responsibilities and share goals. We find targeted solutions to local issues benefitting our communities, our world and our future. Embracing new ideas, collaboration and diversity, we have the passion and courage to address the critical challenges of our time.
AXA Mansard Health Unveils New TV Commercial to Promote Health Insurance in Nigeria
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A new one-minute television commercial that highlights the importance of subscribing to a life insurance policy tagged More Wellness For Less has been unveiled by Axa Mansard Health.
The TVC seeks to enlighten the average Nigerian on the benefits they can derive from having a life insurance policy even while they are alive.
The chief executive of AXA Mansard Health, Mr Tope Adeniyi, while speaking at the launch of the commercial in Lagos, disclosed that for as low as N1,000, Nigerians could have access to AXA Mansard Health services.
“You also have products at N2,000 per month or easy care. There is a bronze plan that you can buy at about N60,000 per annum.
“So, we have a range from of simple products that enable you to have decent access to lifestyle products; you can configure them based on your lifestyle.
“Think about it, the value of your airtime is practically about three times the cost of buying access to more awareness or less. So, everyone can buy AXA,” Mr Adeniyi said.
At the event, the company gave an illustration of how crucial health insurance is.
A woman had an emergency with the child. Meanwhile, the husband wasn’t around, and she managed to rush the child to the hospital, where she was asked to deposit N30,000 before any form of treatment could be administered to the child.
This woman had N31,000 in her (bank) account. This is an emergency. Life is in the line. She had just that N30,000 paid for.
What if she were to pay N35,000? It could be N40,000! This is a woman who does not like begging people for money; probably, she could have resorted to just that. Imagine if the hospital had requested her to pay cash at this time of cash crunch; what a bad experience!
Well, this is where health insurance comes in, and there could not have been a better option than AXA Mansard Health. Yes, because there is another woman who has embraced AXA Mansard’s life health insurance policy and felt calmer in the face of a child’s ill health.
The second woman is calmer because she has MyAXA App.
MyAXA Mobile App is your one-stop non-banking financial service platform. The mobile services have been specifically designed to give users a more convenient way to purchase and manage health and other insurance plans. It is available for download for iPhone and Android users.
In the case of the woman who has the app, she was able to book an appointment, and on getting to the hospital the baby found herself in waiting hands. The woman is not bothered about cash.
The Chief Client Officer of AXA Mansard Insurance, Ms Rashidat Adebisi, remarked that, “It’s very important to us. Mental health is very topical. It has been for us for a long time. Those are some of the things that you can access under our retail products. There’s Wellness, there are genes, and there are so many things that are incorporated into it. We have telemedicine services incorporated into it. If a user prefers not to necessarily be at the hospital, you can access services through telemedicine, and the medication can be delivered to you.
“And we need to highlight that it’s also very affordable. I think a lot of people assume, oh, AXA, they are pricey, no. But in terms of value for money, I think that we are top of the list.
“In furtherance of the seamless service delivery to the users, AXA Mansard Health is working with Moove.”
Also, the Country Director for Moove, Taiwo Ajibola, speaking on the 1 minute TV Commercial video that we all saw, said the first lady had money. That money transfer wasn’t successful. That was the major issue there. We’ve all seen how the recent cash crunch impacted so many of us.
“Access to healthcare anywhere is a critical issue. With this kind of product (by AXA), you have so much access to hospitals. We encourage Nigerians to leverage on that, and we at Moove are here to make life even better for you.”
Continuing, Mr Adeniyi said they have mapped out a strategy on how people in the Diaspora can benefit from the products. “That means those who have ‘japa’ (emigrants) can buy for their family members; they can buy for their community, and they can adopt our products to impact life.
“So, you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we know more about the products and services.”
Ramadan: Ogun Community Gets Free Medical, Household Items
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Ahead of the annual Islamic fast known as Ramadan starting in the coming days, a group known as the Zenith Pathfinders has organised a free medical screening for a community in Ogun State.
The group also shared free healthcare packages to residents of the Adiyan Muslim Community in Agbodo Oja, Ogun State, to enable them to be medically for the annual Islamic ritual.
According to a statement, the event was held on Sunday at 296 Orodu Road at Ilese Bus Stop, Adiyan in Agbado Oja, and more than 200 persons benefited from this.
The screening involved blood pressure, sugar level tests, as well as specialist consultation, with the required prescriptions and drugs given to the inhabitants of the community.
In a bid to also alleviate the suffering of the less privileged, Zenith Pathfinders also donated household items like shoes and clothes, among other items.
Addressing newsmen, the founder of Zenith Pathfinders, Hajiah Aminah Yahya, expressed joy at seeing the smiles on the faces of people who benefited from the gesture.
She explained that the purpose of the programme was to encourage Muslims to know their medical status before fasting so that can be able to have a hitch-free Ramadan.
“We are at the Adiyan Muslim community for the second edition of Pre-Ramadan Medical Screening. We started last year with over 300 participants, but this year, we have over 200 participants.
“The essence of having this programme before Ramadan is to encourage our people to know their medical status before Ramadan comes in.
“They have to know their health status so that they can take care of themselves before Ramadan so that they can have a hitch-free Ramadan. We also gave free household items like cloth materials, fans, freezers and others to over 150 Muslims,” she added.
On his part, Dr Alabi Olarenwaju Usman of the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospital, Ojo, Lagos, said the majority of the Muslims who participated in the medical services were medically fit to fast in the month of Ramadan.
“We are here for humanitarian services for Adiyan Muslim Community. We attended to over 200 Muslims in the community. A few of the cases here involved hypertension, diabetes and malaria. We have given them the necessary assistance, and most of them are eligible for Ramadan,” the medical practitioner, who was the consultant on the ground, said.
Some of the beneficiaries commended Zenith Pathfinders for the gesture, urging the government to do more to make health services affordable.
“This is good, and we sincerely thank the organisers. They conducted medical screening for us without collecting a dime. We are so grateful,” the Imam of Ajumoni Central Mosque, Mutta Three, Ustadh Usman AbdulRaheem, said.
Russian COVID-19 Vaccines Disappear from Africa’s Radar
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Until recently, Africa has not been high on Russia’s policy agenda. African leaders have to understand that Russia, for the past three decades, Africa was at the bottom of its policy agenda. After the end of the Soviet era, Russia has focused broadly on the United States and Europe, dreaming of becoming part of Europe, part of the configuration of the Global North. The low economic presence of Russia from 1991 until 2019 was a testament to the fact that Africa was at the bottom of its priority list. Of course, the October 2019 summit was symbolic, but after that, Russia has left most of the bilateral agreements undelivered across Africa.
With its “special military operation” on Ukraine that necessitated the imposition of stringent sanctions from the United States, European Union and their allies, the United Nations Security Council, mounting pressure on Russia since February 24 2022, pushes Russia to begin soliciting aggressively for support in Africa. Last July, in an article posted to its official website, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov wrote: “The development of a comprehensive partnership with African countries remains among top priorities of Russia’s foreign policy; Moscow is open to its further build-up multifaceted relations with Africa.”
In his Op-Ed article, Lavrov argues: “We have been rebuilding our positions for many years now. The Africans are reciprocating. They are interested in having us. It is good to see that our African friends have a similar understanding with Russia.” Lavrov, however, informed about broadening African issues “in the new version of Russia’s Foreign Policy Concept against the background of the waning of the Western direction” and this will objectively increase the share of the African direction in the work of the Foreign Ministry.
Lavrov consistently displays his passion for historical references. Soviet support for struggles for political independence and against colonialism should be laid to rest in the archives. The best way to fight neo-colonialism is to demonstrate by investing in those competitive sectors and depart away from hyperbolic rhetoric on an endless list of sectors. In practical terms, we rather face today’s development challenges and what is in store for the future generation. Africa today does not need anti-Western slogans; Africa simply needs external players who would passionately and genuinely invest in the critical economic sectors. The fundamental fact is that Africa is making efforts to transform its economy to create employment, modern agriculture, and industrialize the continent, especially with the introduction of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Despite criticisms, China has built an exemplary distinctive economic power in Africa. Besides China, Africa is largely benefiting from the European Union and Western aid flows and economic and trade ties. Compared, Russia plays very little role in Africa’s infrastructure, agriculture and industry and makes little effort to leverage the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Our monitoring shows that the Russian business community hardly pays attention to the significance of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which provides a unique and valuable platform for businesses to access an integrated African market of over 1.3 billion people.
Lavrov’s efforts toward building non-Western ties in these crucial times are highly commendable, especially with Africa. But, the highly respected Minister easily and most times forgot the fact that during these two-three years of a global pandemic, the coronavirus that engulfed the planet, in every corner of the world, Africa was desperately looking for vaccines. Health authorities are still warning that Covid-19 has not been completely faced throughout the world.
Quartz, a reputable global media, reported early this year that “as of the end of 2022, about a quarter of the population of African countries has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the latest figures shared by Africa CDC. The coverage varies drastically depending on the country. In Liberia, for instance, nearly 80% of the population is fully vaccinated, while only 34% is in neighbouring Sierra Leone. Congo, Sudan, Senegal, and Madagascar all have vaccination rates below 10%.
In his briefing, Ouma said the target for Africa remains to vaccinate 70% of the population. That goal, however, was set by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the overall population. These numbers are about to change – and not because of an increase in vaccinations. Africa CDC acting director Ahmed Ogwell Ouma announced in a video briefing on December 22 that it will modify the way it reports vaccination rates. Rather than reporting coverage of the overall population, it will only report vaccinations of the eligible populations aged 12 or more.
Due to delays in international vaccine deliveries, Africa lags behind the rest of the world in Covid vaccination rates and is the only continent where less than 50% of the population is fully vaccinated. Currently, just more than 800 million doses of vaccines have been administered in Africa, or 80% of the total received. About a third of the vaccinations have been made with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, followed by Pfizer (22%), AstraZeneca (17%), China’s Sinopharm (15%) and Sinovac (7%).
Several reports monitored by this author show that Russia has played a minimal role in the entire health sector in Africa. With the Covid-19 vaccination, Russia randomly sprinkled a few thousand as humanitarian assistance among its “Soviet friends”, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Guinea, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Nevertheless, the worse was Russia’s sudden failure to supply the 300 million vaccines through the African Union (AU), especially during the times of health crisis.
An authoritative policy report presented in November 2021 titled ‘Situation Analytical Report’ and prepared by 25 Russian policy experts headed by Sergei A. Karaganov noted explicitly the failure to supply Sputnik vaccines to the African Union. The report criticized Russia’s current policy and lukewarm approach towards Africa.
“In several ways, Russia’s possibilities are overestimated both publicly and in closed negotiations. The supply of Russian-made vaccines to Africa is an example. Having concluded contracts for the supply of Sputnik V to a number of African states, Russian suppliers failed to meet contractual obligations on time,” says the report in part.
The coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Worth noting that Russia claims that it was the first to find a coronavirus cure. The World Health Organization (WHO), until today, has not certified Russia’s vaccines, though. On the other hand, all the vaccines that have been registered in Russia – Sputnik V, Sputnik Light, CoviVac and EpiVacCorona – are produced in large quantities by Russian pharmaceutical companies and are currently used for vaccination.
Director of the Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology Alexander Gintsburg has several times highlighted aspects of vaccine production and marketing. He noted to raise the attractiveness of the vaccines on foreign markets, including countries in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund, tasked to engage in marketing the vaccines abroad, got messed up, especially in Africa. Of course, it took steps and speedily registered the vaccines in more than 20 African countries but terribly failed on delivery deadlines. Worse was the Russian Direct Investment Fund supplied, at exorbitant prices, through middlemen in the Arab Emirates to a number of African countries. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has, however, held a series of African Foreign Ministers during this Covid-19 period and desperate moment reiterated to assist with direct supplies to Africa. That is Russia, considered a reliable partner for Africa.
The above thoughts on the part of the Covid-19 business offered the reasons why Russia absolutely refused to join and be part of the Covax facility, which acts as a global collective bargaining initiative to secure vaccine doses for countries who signed up, including those are self-financing their purchases, as well as assistance from donors for poorer developing countries. The first vaccines purchased through Covax were indeed destined to reach Africa. That was, monitored by this author, some 88.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines distributed to 47 countries, including Africa, during the first half of 2021. This same year, during the virtual meeting of G7 leaders, the European Union announced it had donated a further 500 million euros to the COVAX program. The World Bank also committed $12 billion as concessional loans to assist African countries in accessing foreign vaccines.
That is not all from several reports monitored. In April 2022, writing under the headline: “How Russia’s Hollow Humanitarian Hurt Its Vaccine Diplomacy in Africa,” – the co-authors, Matthew T. Page and Paul Stronski, both noted in 2020 that Russia touted deliveries of medical and protective supplies to several African countries, while the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine offered hopes that African countries would soon be able to launch large-scale immunization drives. Russian efforts to promote Sputnik V in Africa have floundered for a variety of reasons, including regulatory worries, production and logistical shortfalls, bureaucratic inertia, and even sticker shock. There is, however, another key factor behind Moscow’s failed vaccine diplomacy: its traditionally diminutive post-Soviet development presence on the continent.
Compared to Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and even many foundations, Russia has provided a tiny share of international development assistance to African countries since the end of the Cold War. Unlike India and Cuba, it has provided scanty medical assistance to – or investment in – African countries.
Suppose Russia wants to be influential on the continent. In that case, African political and economic leaders should demand more of Moscow, not simply settle for the symbolic diplomatic engagements or agreements at which the Russian leadership excels. Indeed, Africa has not ranked high on the Russian foreign policy agenda for much of the past three decades, getting barely a mention in the country’s key security documents except as either a partner in an emerging multipolar world or a source of instability.
Indeed the time has come for African leaders to rally together to ensure that no effort is spared in facilitating and supporting the building of large-scale vaccine manufacturing capacity on the continent. The African Vaccine Manufacturing Summit held in April 2021 was an encouraging start. Focus needs to be on developing real vaccine R&D capacity, which must necessarily lead to health products. This requires substantial investment and a long-term commitment. In a similar vein, under the aegis of the African Union, leaders have to begin looking for inside solutions rather than base hopes on these geopolitical games, great external powers seeking only support for their peculiar or parochial interests.
Understandably, while making efforts to maintain and expand its presence in Africa, Russia simply lacks the capability to deliver on its various promises in Africa. Surely, African countries have to begin to re-evaluate their relationship with Russia. African leaders should not expect anything tangible from meetings, conferences and summits. Since the first Russia-Africa summit held in 2019, very little has been achieved. Given the stringent sanctions imposed following Putin’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, it is even more improbable that Moscow would commit adequate financial resources to invest in economic sectors.
In stark contrast to key global players, for instance, the United States, China and the European Union and many others, Russia obviously has limitations. Notwithstanding that, for Russia to regain a part of its Soviet-era influence, it has to address its policy approach, this time trying to shift towards new paradigms – implementing some of the decade-old pledges and promises, and those bilateral agreements; secondly to promote development-oriented policies and how to make these strategic efforts more practical, more consistent, more effective and most admirably result-oriented with African countries.
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