Akwa Ibom coordinator of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) has raised public consciousness to the endemic nature of Onchocerciasis (River blindness) in four local government areas of the state.
Dr Aniekeme Uwah listed the affected local government areas to include;Ibiono, Ini, Ika and Ikono, called on stakeholders to join hands with governments to eliminate the disease which he said were spread by blackfly.
Uwah who is the national public relations officer of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) made the call In a chat with newsmen in Uyo on Monday, as part of the activities to mark the 2022 World NTDs Day, celebrated every 30th of January.
He also raised public awareness on Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis (STH), commonly known as intestinal worms, which he said was prevalent in all the 31 local government areas of the state.
Another NTD that the medical expert reported being common in the Udung Uko Local Government Area of the state was Schistosomiasis, commonly called snail fever with water snails as vector.
The immediate past state Epidemiologist also listed lymphatic filariasis, commonly called elephantiasis with mosquitoes as a vector, according to the immediate past state Epidemiologist was common in 11 local government areas of the state.
Uwah who listed about 20 neglected tropical diseases in existence and many of which have been identified in Akwa Ibom, blame the prevalent nature of these ailments on poverty, the reason they are easily identified in communities in the tropical regions.
In his words “These are diseases that are commonly found in tropical and subtropical parts of the world and they are closely associated with poverty, poor housing, poor access to potable water supply, poor access to healthcare delivery.
He stated that they were not really reported, probably because they do not kill as fast as other diseases like HIV, COVID-19 and the rest and that apart from that, probably because they affect the world’s poorest, just as they do not get the kind of attention they should get.
Uwah observed that these disease conditions were affecting people with high morbidity even though the mortality was relatively low, making them not to live optimally and fulfill their destinies.
“There are different types. Some are endemic in all Local government areas, some are endemic in about 11 LGAs while some are endemic in about four Local government areas.Mosttimes we drive on the streets and see people with swollen legs or you go to the communities and see people with their swollen scrotum.We also have some which lead to people having rashes on their skin. And these are rashes that you treat and treat and they just don’t heal, it could also lead to blindness. Most of us have heard of river blindness that is spread by blackfly. thesedisease conditions are there in our state,” he said.
Uwah lamented that in spite of the fact that these diseases affected the common people, there was no provision from governments for regular free medical services for victims.
The state coordinator, therefore, appealed to politicians, philanthropists and well-meaning Akwa Ibom people to join hands with the government to eliminate these neglected tropical diseases..
“So, if there is a condition that affects the child’s nutrition because these worms stay in the stomach of the child, they suck the nutrients the child should get. As the child is growing up, the child is not getting enough nourishment,” he explained.