Category Archives: Africa

An Interview with Francis Ohanyido, Global Network’s New NTD Advisor in Nigeria

 

339b5751. How did you first become interested in health issues? What makes you passionate?

My interest in health issues naturally started very early in life when I had made up my mind that I was going to study medicine. The story has it that I took an uncle’s stethoscope from his clinic when I was 7 or 8 years old and refused to return it, while insisting that I was going to be a doctor. I don’t quite recall that incident, but I do know that the central focus of my life has been to manage the sick. I co-founded the first on-campus HIV/AIDS outreach programme at a Nigerian university as a medical student in Jos, and my encounter later with public health issues among internally displaced persons camps in Liberia finally swayed me towards population medicine.

2. What is your role as Global Network’s National Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Advisor in Nigeria?

As the Global Network’s NTD advisor in Nigeria, I advocate for increased government commitments to the fight against NTDs. I work closely with NTD partners to support the government through evidence-based advocacy to sustain and incrementally grow federal and other tiers of governments’ political and funding commitments in order to expand NTD treatment access and coverage. I do this by demonstrating that NTDs should be a priority for the federal and select state governments in Nigeria. My role as Global Network’s National NTD Advisor is to also foster the establishment of policies and/or mechanisms towards sustainable NTD programing in all of Nigeria. I will also work with partners to provide technical support to the National NTD Steering Committee in order to enhance its capability for advocacy.

3. In your view, what are the biggest challenges standing in the way of Nigeria’s efforts to control and eliminate NTDs?

The major challenges in Nigeria’s efforts to control NTDs has largely been around funding; over dependency on donor interventions and inconsistent funding by government counterparts. As much as we situate the critical funding gap for NTDs with state governments, an often overlooked significant funding gap also exists within the local governments, which ordinarily should be major implementers of primary health care and third tier government partner for the NTD programmes in Nigeria. The second issue is the lack of community –based manpower to implement the NTD programme.

4. Does Media (social media, print and others) play a role in the fight against NTDs? How can we leverage this tool to effect change?

Media does play a major role in the fight against NTDs. Because NTDs remain ‘neglected’ in policy, programme, and perception, the power of media to effectively communicate and give the NTD programme a voice is critical to moving the issue further away from public neglect to the front burner of policy. Media has a great function within any public health system, whether in Nigeria or elsewhere. It is worth noting that new media such as social media has enhanced communication and knowledge management for health, as it has bridged the gap between persons, establishments and systems, and has deepened potential for targeted and non-targeted messaging with the potential to boost public health communication of all kinds.

To leverage these tools we have to begin to understand the data on utilization of the media forms and social media adoption in policy, programme and perception management for public health outcomes. The good part is there has been marked public health interest lately in this domain. NTDs can leverage the lessons learned from other programmes in order to move forward.

5. Why is Nigeria a focus when it comes to NTD control and elimination?

Let’s play back to 2014; Nigeria received its Guinea Worm Eradication Certificate from the World Health Organisation — an achievement that made headlines. In the same year, Nigeria managed to free itself from the Ebola Virus Disease pandemic that ravaged several African countries, and the world heaved a sigh of relief. Even though Ebola is not one of the NTDs, it further emphasized the potential of good stewardship, financing and sheer determination at the frontlines.

Nigeria’s success is critical to the fight against NTDs because Nigeria holds the highest NTD burden in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria’s NTD burden reduction will have a significant impact on the global burden of NTDs, considering that for some time now, Nigeria has been regularly ranked in the top 10 nations with the highest NTD burden. Now we have the opportunity to reduce the NTD burden through sustainable funding and effective implementation of programmes.


 

Dr. Ohanyido is the Global Network’s National NTD Advisor in Nigeria. Stationed in Abuja, he works with national NTD partners to strengthen stakeholders’ advocacy efforts for Nigeria’s NTD programme. Over the last 15 years, Ohanyido has worked with diverse international organizations like UNHCR, UNICEF, and WHO across Africa, as well as various USAID projects in Nigeria. He has also served as an Advisor to the Senate Committee on Health in Nigeria. Recently, he served as the National Pneumonia Coordinator in Nigeria, in collaboration with USAID and UNICEF. 

He has a medical degree from University of Jos, and postgraduate trainings in diverse areas such as public health, information communications technology and management. He is a fellow of both the Royal Society for Public Health (UK) and the Royal Society for Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (UK), and Senior Fellow of the Academy of Learning Nigeria. He is a martial artist, poet and strong advocate for African Renaissance.

Training Session Improves Prevention and Treatment of Podoconiosis for People of Cameroon

 

A podoconiosis patient practices good hygiene. Credit: Footwork

A podoconiosis patient practices good hygiene. Credit: Footwork

Guest blog post by Wendy Santis, Footwork Executive Director 

Twenty-five members of Cameroon’s Ministry of Health, and nurses and leaders from Mbebah Vigilantic Farming and Development Association — a community development NGO in Northwest Cameroon — received training this past December in podoconiosis diagnosis, prevention and mitigation.

Podoconiosis, a type of elephantiasis spread by chronic exposure to irritant soils, has been reported in over 15 countries across tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America in volcanic highland zones, and is an important cause of tropical lymphedema. This neglected tropical disease (NTD) is primarily found in remote rural areas where subsistence farmers typically work in the fields barefoot. It causes progressive bilateral swelling of the lower legs. It is not infectious — no virus, bacterium or parasite is responsible.

The exchange training visit in Cameroon, which aimed to strengthen the Northwest region’s ability to control podoconiosis, was funded by Footwork: The International Podoconiosis Initiative (a project of New Venture Fund, a 501c3 public charity), Brighton and Sussex Medical School and International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). Participants included three IOCC staff who are involved in podoconiosis prevention and treatment programs in Ethiopia: Hari Desta, Tsige Amberbir and Abreham Tamiru. They, plus Footwork Executive Director Wendy Santis, worked with Professor Samuel Wanji’s team from the University of Buea/Research Foundation for Tropical Disease and Environment.

podo2Since 2009, IOCC, in collaboration with Gail Davey, Professor of Global Health Epidemiology at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and Footwork’s founder, has developed a scalable model to address podoconiosis with an aggressive prevention and treatment program in Ethiopia, where more than three million people suffer from this debilitating disease of the feet and legs and another 38 million are at risk. Through this IOCC model, more than 300,000 children and adults have been assisted through awareness, prevention and treatment efforts.

Data and recommendations are being shared with Cameroon’s Ministry of Health planners to inform policy decisions regarding community-based management of morbidity due to podoconiosis with the goal of eliminating podoconiosis in the region and the country. A Northwest region podoconiosis advocacy committee has been formed to further these efforts.

This work is extremely important, considering two million people (10 percent of Cameroon’s population) are at risk of podoconiosis. Mapping in Northwest Cameroon has demonstrated that podoconiosis is endemic in this region. Several thousand people are affected with a mean prevalence of 1 percent. Further mapping is planned.

To learn more about Footwork and podoconiosis, visit: www.podo.org.

In addition to Cameroon, Footwork is active in Ethiopia and plans to work in Uganda and Rwanda, among other countries. It encourages integration of podoconiosis control into efforts to eliminate other NTDs, and works with those active in other related diseases of the foot and leg.

  • Our shared goal is to eliminate podoconiosis within our lifetimes.
  • Our vision is a world free of podoconiosis in our lifetimes.
  • Our mission is to bring together public and private partners to support prevention and treatment of, and advocacy for, podoconiosis.

Every Sample is Someone’s Life: My Experience with NTD Field Research

 

By David Obadina

Northeastern University, where I am a junior majoring in International Affairs with a minor in global health, has an amazing co-op program through which students can go on six month internships anywhere in the world and work in an area of their interest. Having learned so much about neglected tropical diseases from classes and from serving on the END7 Student Advisory Board last spring, I was excited to be able to apply what I have learned and make a difference in this field during my co-op in the summer and fall of 2014 in Kumasi, Ghana.

For my co-op, I worked at the Kumasi Center for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (KCCR) in their parasitology section. I had the opportunity to work in the lab and in the field to see and experience firsthand how NTDs like lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, hookworm and roundworm are treated.

The field experience was one of a kind. The staff here at KCCR were all very friendly and dedicated to their jobs. When we would go out into the field, we would travel a few hours to remote villages where people do not have easy access to healthcare and set up our equipment in a nearby school. Then, the project leader would speak to the people in charge of the village and would explain everything they intended to do. People were eager to be tested and receive treatment for NTDs.

I worked on the field microscope that was testing people on site. Probably the most interesting and meaningful experience of the field work was when I would diagnose on site looking at blood under the microscope. When I found a worm in someone’s blood I would alert them and show them the worm under the microscope to explain to them the nature of the disease afflicting them. This fieldwork raised awareness of filarial disease among these communities and actively sought to educate the community members. I was honored to be a part of this work and have gained a whole new real world perspective when it comes to the reality of NTDs and those affected by them.

Working in the laboratory, while it may not sound as exciting as the field, has been just as intriguing and is extremely essential to understanding these diseases. Something that was stressed every day in the lab is that every sample is someone’s life. Every single sample of blood that we diagnose and analyze holds meaning and is of high importance. Every diagnosis we make, whether negative or positive, has an immense effect on the lives of everyone involved, and that cannot be taken lightly.

I first became involved in the END7 campaign after being introduced to it by my epidemiology professor, Dr. Richard Wamai, in the fall of 2013, and joined the team that formed the END7 club at Northeastern. We planned many educational events and raised funds for END7, but last semester, I had the eye-opening opportunity to be on the other side of the fight against NTDs during my co-op. Now, I believe I’m better prepared to advocate for global equality and the rapid treatment of neglected diseases. At END7 events hosted at Northeastern, people would sometimes ask what it’s like for people with these diseases or how someone with an NTD looks. I could give an educated answer from what I had studied about the disease or things I had heard at global health conferences, but I couldn’t really give an accurate first hand account. After my co-op experience, I know I’ll be much more confident in giving an accurate depiction of the wide-ranging effects of NTDs on human life.

My co-op experience helped me grow in many ways. I learned a great deal about parasitology, global health networks, and what it really means to work in this field and make a difference in the lives of others. Now that I’m back in Boston, I am excited to begin another semester of education, advocacy, and fundraising with END7 at Northeastern this spring.

With END7 Support, Nigeria Reaches More Communities at Risk for NTDs

 

Photo by MITOSATH

Photo by MITOSATH

All seven of the most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are found in Nigeria. With an estimated 100 million people at risk for at least one NTD, Nigeria has the highest burden in Africa.

While Nigeria has a multi-year plan to control or eliminate the seven most common NTDs by 2020 –additional resources are still needed to reach all communities at risk of contracting NTDs.

To support Nigeria’s NTD efforts, the END7 campaign donated $84,000 towards MITOSATH, a Nigerian nonprofit organization that works to control and eliminate NTDs within the country. Specifically, END7 funds supported MITOSATH’s efforts in Bauchi State.

Thanks to the generosity of END7 supporters, more than 2,500 school teachers, community drug distributors and health facility staff members were trained on how to carry out a mass drug administration (MDA). END7 funds also supported MITOSATH’s efforts to increase awareness among community members about NTDs.

In total, these combined efforts ensured the treatment of more than 740,000 people in three Local Government Areas (LGAs) within Bauchi state. Even more, 9,000 of these were school children who were treated for schistosomiasis and intestinal worms for the first time, signaling another step towards NTD control and elimination!

Photo by MITOSATH

Photo by MITOSATH