By Adamazi Mbonu Onyi Jennifer
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a group of preventable and treatable diseases that could be caused by viruses, bacteria, protozoa that affect 1.5 billion people globally of whom 40% live in Africa.
During UNICEF Media Dialogue, Dr Chukwuma Anyaike, Director and National Coordinator of Neglected Tropical Diseases Elimination Programme in Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria revealed that all the States in Nigeria are endemic for one or more of these NTDs.
The diseases are called “neglected” because they tend to affect the world’s poorest and have received less attention than other diseases. They also disfigure, disable and keep children out of school and parents out of work thereby limiting their potentials and leaving communities stuck in poverty.
The NTDs are grouped into two;
Preventive Chemotherapy (PC) NTDs which include Onchocerciasis, Lymphatic Filariasis, Schistosomiasis, Soil – transmitted Helminthiasis and Trachoma.
Case Management (CM) NTDs which are Snakebite Envenoming, Rabies, Buruli Ulcer, Leprosy, Yaws, Leishmaniasis, Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) and Guinea-worm Disease which has been eliminated.
Preventive Chemotherapy (PC) is one of the interventions deployed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to combat atleast five diseases through Mass Drug Administration (MDA) to eligible populations in NTD-endemic areas on the assumption that such treatment will reduce the reservoir of infection and eventually interrupt transmission while Case Management (CM) is WHO’s strategy to address Neglected Tropical Diseases of the Skin (also called skinNTDs) which provides opportunities for early detection, timely treatment, morbidity management and disability prevention of these conditions.
Onchocerciasis is transmitted through the bite of an infectious blackfly and can be prevented through proper environmental sanitation, hygiene practices and safe water supply to reduce breeding sites for blackfly.
Schistosomiasis is transmitted through worms in human faeces from larvae in fresh water snails which penetrate the skin and can be controlled through improved snail sanitation and health education.
Soil – transmitted Helminths is transmitted through hookworm larvae/eggs ingested through contaminated food/water or penetrated through skin when walking barefoot and can be prevented through improved sanitation and hygiene, washing of fruits and vegetables, use of protective footwear.
Lymphatic Filariasis is transmitted from person to person through mosquito bite and can be prevented through proper environmental sanitation and hygiene practices, safe water supply to reduce breeding ground. Daily washing of affected limbs with soap and clean water will also help to prevent secondary infection.
Trachoma is transmitted from person to person through flies and can be prevented through promotion of face washing, improved access to clean water and lastly, proper sanitation for disposal of human waste.
Finally, if Neglected Tropical Diseases are given same priority and visibility that are given to HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, the diseases will be completely eliminated in the country.