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How we have battled Neglected Tropical Diseases in Akwa Ibom- Commissioner for Health Opens Up 

How we have battled Neglected Tropical Diseases in Akwa Ibom- Commissioner for Health Opens Up 

By Ekemini Simon

The Akwa Ibom State Government has given insight into its effort and success towards eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Akwa Ibom State.

NTDs are a diverse group of tropical infections common in low-income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia and the Americas. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), they are prevalent in areas with a high level of poverty, poor sanitation, poor access to potable water supply, poor housing conditions, poor access to qualitative health care services and ignorance. The five of the highest burden NTDs are Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis), Onchocerciasis (River Blindness), Schistosomiasis (Bilharziasis), Blinding Trachoma, and Soil – Transmitted Helminthiasis (Intestinal Worms).

Addressing newsmen in Uyo on Thursday in preparation for the World Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) Day holding on January 30, 2022, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Health, Prof Augustine Umoh, noted that although in Akwa Ibom State, the Soil Transmitted Helminthiasis (STH) are endemic in the 31 Local Government Areas (LGAs), Lymphatic Filariasis in 11 LGAs, Onchocerciasis in 4 LGAs and Schistosomiasis in Udung-Uko LGA, the State has been aggressive in the fight for the control/elimination of diseases.

While stating that the five of the highest burden NTDs are amenable to highly effective preventative chemotherapy, the Commissioner said that the state NTDs team has been committed towards intensifying risk communication, social mobilization and community engagement activities as well as the Mass Administration of Medicines (MAM) in endemic communities and schools.

Prof Umoh offered insight to the fact that some of the Onchocerciasis endemic communities have been treated for upwards of ten (10) years.  

He recalled that in 2019, the Akwa Ibom State NTD programme achieved 75% therapeutic coverage in the five highest burden NTDs. 

The Commissioner pointed out that despite the Ministry’s strides, a lot of work still needs to be done in the area of sensitization of the general populace on the need for proper environmental sanitation, improved personal hygiene, discouragement of open defecation,  drinking of clean and potable water, and ,reporting early for diagnosis and proper treatment.
He added ” Furthermore, to give credence to the giant strides being recorded by the state in the fight against NTDs, in the second week of February,2021,a Pre-Transmission Assessment Survey (TAS) was conducted in Uruan LGA (a Lymphatic Filariasis endemic LGA) by the Federal Ministry of Health and the state passed. It is instructive to note that was the first time such an exercise was conducted in the state.

” A similar survey has also been conducted in Eastern-Obolo, Etim-Ekpo and Ikot-Ekpene LGAs in the state about a week ago and it is our hope  that when the results are released by the Federal Ministry of Health, the state will still pass.”

The Commissioner explained that for a Pre-test to be conducted, it means that the local government area has been effectively treated for five consecutive years, achieving both the expected therapeutic and geographical coverage. 

Prof Umoh stated that in a bid to have an objective assessment of the efforts of the state, the Federal Ministry of Health also conducted a Post Mass Administration of Medicine Coverage Evaluation Survey in three LGAs of Ikono, Ibiono-Ibom and Onna, stressing that the outcome showed that the state did very well.

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The Commissioner thanked the State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel for what he described as health-friendly policies which he said have gone a long way to support and boost efforts in the fight against NTDs. 

He acknowledged the role of the National Coordinator and the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) NTD’s team in providing the needed drugs, support and supervision for the fight to control and eliminate NTDs in Akwa Ibom state.

The Commissioner equally expressed gratitude to the ministry’s partner, Helen Keller International (HKI), for what he described as immeasurable and unrelenting technical and financial support in the battle.

The Ministry’s helmsman charged all stakeholders to double their efforts towards achieving a total elimination of the diseases.

Meanwhile, the NTDs Day which has the theme ” Achieving Health Equity to End the Neglect of Poverty-related Diseases” would be marked in the State with programmes to include – live radio interview session on Friday, Street Walk and Sensitisation Exercise on Saturday and Thanksgiving Service on Sunday.

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