Neglected Tropical Diseases: Scourges To Watch


In recent statistics from the World Health Organisation, WHO, an estimated 138.9 million Nigerians require interventions against Neglected Tropical Diseases, NTDs.

This was contained in the latest epidemiological and programmatic data for 2022, which were gathered, compiled, and analysed in 2023, and obtained from the WHO.

According to WHO, NTDs are endemic in the country ranking first in the African region and second globally after India.

Neglected Tropical Diseases ,NTDs, refers to a diverse group of parasitic and bacterial diseases that cause significant morbidity and mortality in more than 1 billion people worldwide, which disproportionately affect poor and marginalized populations. These diseases can cause severe disfigurement and disabilities, including blindness, developmental disabilities and malnutrition. These conditions, in turn, can cause both social and economic challenges in the regions where they are most common.

NTDs coexist with poverty because they thrive where access to clean water and sanitation are limited, and people live without protection from disease vectors. NTDs contribute to poverty as well, since they can:

Impair intellectual development in children.

Reduce school enrollment.

Hinder economic productivity by limiting the ability of infected individuals to work.

Fortunately, five of the most prevalent NTDs can be controlled through preventive chemotherapy that has been proven to be safe and effective and that can be delivered in an integrated manner through mass drug administration.

WHO defined NTDs as a diverse group of conditions of parasitic, bacterial, viral, fungal, and non-communicable origin, noting that there are more than 15 NTDs in Nigeria.

The report stated, “They prevent children from going to school and adults from going to work, trapping communities in cycles of poverty and inequity. People affected by disabilities and impairments caused by NTDs often experience stigma within their communities, hindering their access to needed care and leading to social isolation.

It is believed that of these deadly diseases, the only one so far eliminated was dracunculiasis (Guinea-worm disease) in 2013. The population requiring interventions against NTDs was approximately 138.9 million in 2022, even as the nation’s rating on the global index is poor and abysmal.

“This includes 138.9 million requiring treatment for lymphatic filariasis through mass drug administration; 48.7 million requiring treatment for soil-transmitted helminthiases through mass drug administration; and 43.5 million requiring treatment for onchocerciasis through mass drug administration”, according to the statistics revealed.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government had in 2023 said it would eradicate NTDs in the country by 2027. How far it can go with this optimistic posturing depends on how serious it pursues that goal beyond rhetorics.

The Director of the WHO Global Neglected Tropical Diseases Programme, Dr Ibrahima Fall, was quoted as saying; “With a renewed focus on strategic priorities addressing advocacy for action, partnership, costing and accelerated implementation, technical gaps including research and development and leadership.

“We must intensify our collective action to address the deep-rooted inequalities that fuel the transmission of NTDs in the populations where they persist”.

It may not be unusual for many analysts to suggest that the nation’s huge population is the likely cause for the prevalence of these NTDs compared to other countries in the continent but that postulation cannot stand the test of time on a global scale as our rating only comes second to India. It shows there is a lot do to bridge this gap which requires more than a lip service as to tackle.

We urge for more investment covering areas of water and sanitation which combine to further exacerbate the spread of the NTDs in the country.

Indeed, there is the need to improve on advocacy in rural and far-flung communities who are very unaware of the dangers they face with the prevalence of these diseases.


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