Together with international partners and NGOs, the government of Nigeria has the potential to drastically expand and strengthen their neglected tropical disease (NTD) program to treat and protect its population from the devastating impact of NTDs. Nigeria bears the largest NTD burden within sub-Saharan Africa, but the country’s national plan to tackle NTDs has already laid the groundwork for controlling and eliminating these diseases by 2020. However, additional training, especially at the state level, will help Nigeria scale up and maintain a sustainable NTD program that could lead to the control and elimination of NTDs by 2020.
Nigeria’s geography poses a unique challenge in the fight against NTDs. For example, each Nigerian state possesses its own quasi-autonomous state ministry of health — each with its own integrated NTD program. With this challenge in mind, The World Health Organization (WHO) and partners developed a training program for the first week in February for the 36 Nigerian states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to provide representatives with the tools and technical skills needed to establish, scale up and sustain integrated NTD programs within their respective states. The training was supported by The Envision project, The United project, and was attended by state representatives, including federal ministers of health, members of federal NTD teams and zonal coordinators and NGO partners.
Highlights from the 5-day training were shared through Twitter, thanks to @NTDNigeria and RTIinterntional:
— NTDnigeria (@NTDnigeria) February 5, 2014
Throughout the training, facilitators from Nigeria and the U.S. led sessions on scaling up integrated MDA programs, monitoring and evaluation, data management and advocacy. The facilitators also went over some basic but essential tasks – including filling out the appropriate forms to apply for NTD medications.
During her session, Global Network senior program officer Wangechi Thuo stressed the importance of effective advocacy in creating sustainable NTD programs. She led participants through exercises, demonstrating how to effectively raise awareness about NTDs among key policy influencers with the goal of garnering sustained ownership, leadership, and commitment from governments and their partners for NTD programs
— NTDnigeria (@NTDnigeria) February 4, 2014
The training also brought together key government partners including Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency. Together, partners discussed ways to better and more effectively distribute NTD medicine to populations in need. While Nigeria has the medicine necessary to treat its population, delivering the medicine to more than a hundred million Nigerians is a difficult task.
As the globe moves towards NTD elimination by 2020, Nigeria must remain a top priority given its large NTD burden. Thanks to this month’s NTD workshop, Nigeria’s government expects to see more and more people treated for NTDs, and more precise monitoring and evaluation of drug delivery in the coming year. Through continued government and partner support, Nigeria can see the end of NTDs. In the words of Dr. Bridget Okuaguale, Director of Public Health (DPH) at the Federal Ministry of Health, “We must work as a team, or we cannot go anywhere.”