A former Head of State in Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon, is championing a campaign for the control of Malaria and other Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in Delta State.
General Gowon made the call for more efforts to tackle diseases in the Niger Delta region when he led the Board Of Trustees of the Yakubu Gowon Carter Centre and the South South Advocacy Group on the control of Malaria and other Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) on a courtesy visit to the State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa.
At the meeting held at the Government House in Asaba, the capital of the state, the group sought the support of Governor Okowa’s administration towards the eradication of the disease.
According to The World Health Organisation, an estimate of more than one billion people including more than 500 million children are affected by Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Out of the figure, 40 per cent live in the African region while Nigeria accounts for 25 per cent of the African burden.
This perhaps has necessitated the courtesy call on the Governor of Delta State by a General Gowon and the South South Advocacy Group.
Giving an insight on the effort of the group towards the total eradication of Malaria, River Blindness, Elephantiasis and other neglected tropical diseases, General Gowon said that the group had distributed over 1.7 million Long Lasting Insect Nets and still had 3.5 million to distribute in order to eradicate the diseases.
“We have trained 8,281 community Directed Distributors, 1,170 Volunteer Supervisors, 525 Health Staff and 2,345 Teachers for school treatments.
“The Carter Centre Nigeria has been in Nigeria assisting the Federal Government since 1988 to fight NTDs and I joined the fight in 1999. I am here with my team to solicit the support of the Delta State government to battle River Blindness, Elephantiasis and Malaria until they are defeated in the state and country at large,” he said.
General Yakubu Gowon also spoke on his association with the Carter Centre, his experiences and challenges.
After the group briefed him, Senator Okowa called for a holistic approach towards eradicating malaria, and other neglected tropical diseases.
While lauding the use of Long Lasting Mosquito Treated Nets to check malaria, Governor Okowa observed that a holistic approach to tackling the issue would bring greater relief to Deltans and Nigerians as a whole.
“I support the campaign for the distribution of insecticide treated mosquito nets but. We should try a holistic approach to control malaria scourge,” he said, reiterating that “until we do this, we will find that year in, year out, we will keep on distributing nets while we are not controlling malaria holistically”.
“We need to combine both the net and other control measures in the fight against malaria. This is possible because, until we start driving our nation in that direction, we may not get the desired result. In the long run, we will find that the money that we have put into the distribution of mosquito net could have produced better results using the holistic approach,” he added
Neglected Tropical Diseases are a diverse group of tropical infections which are especially common in low-income populations in developing regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.
They are caused by a variety of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, protozoa which thrives through an unhygienic environment.
These diseases are contrasted with the big three diseases (HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria), which generally receive greater treatment and research funding.
The general consensus at the meeting was that by 2020 these diseases would be completely eradicated.