Tag Archives: Nigeria

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

 

Going Beyond Cooperation: Why it’s Critical for NTD Control and Elimination in Nigeria

 

Trachoma prevalence mapping in Katsina State by State Team of Examiner and Recorder on hand-held mobile device. Photo from RTI International.

Trachoma prevalence mapping in Katsina State by State Team of Examiner and Recorder on hand-held mobile device. Credit: RTI International.

The following guest blog post from Benjamin Nwobi, resident program advisor for RTI International and the ENVISION project in Nigeria, and Sunday Isiyaku, country director for Sightsavers in Nigeria and lead for the UNITED Project, details a new alliance aimed at strengthening Nigeria’s Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) program and maximizing the impact of resources directed at NTD control and elimination.

If we are to succeed in reaching the World Health Organization (WHO) NTD control and elimination targets for 2020, we must focus on Nigeria – a country with one of the highest NTD burdens in the world. We therefore commend the government of Nigeria for making NTDs a priority and working with partners to implement the national integrated NTD control and elimination plans. Such efforts have contributed to the eradication of guinea worm and will surely contribute to efforts such as the Saving One Million Lives Initiative.


 

It has been one hundred years since Nigeria’s independence and while much has changed through substantial development and investments, Nigeria’s rating against the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Health-Indicators still lags; maternal and child morbidity and mortality remain high and quality and affordable health services are either lacking or not readily accessible, especially for the 70 percent of Nigerians living on less than $2 a day.

It is not surprising then that Nigeria carries one of the highest burdens of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). These communicable diseases are inextricably linked with poverty and are prevalent in areas with poor sanitation, inadequate safe water supply and substandard housing conditions. In late March 2014, Nigeria and its partners celebrated the country receiving the WHO certification for officially eradicating Guinea worm disease. Nigeria had been the most endemic country in the world for guinea worm with over 800,000 cases documented. Scale-up efforts are now underway to achieve control and elimination of other high prevalence NTDs such as onchocerciasis, soil transmitted helminths (STH), schistosomiasis, trachoma and lymphatic filariasis (LF) by the year 2020.

An enormous task

An undertaking so ambitious requires unprecedented partnership and coordination. Nigeria is a federated country consisting of 36 states and 774 local government areas and each level of government plays a specific role in fighting NTDs. Implementing a national NTD programme that can effectively wipe out these diseases is an enormous task.

An estimated 31 million people are currently at risk for onchocerciasis across 32 states of the country. Though prevalence mapping is still underway, Nigeria is ranked third highest in the world for LF, with 63 million persons at risk, and is estimated to have one of the highest STH burdens in Africa. Trachoma is the second major cause of avoidable blindness in the northern part of Nigeria. Ongoing mapping efforts will provide more information on exactly which areas require treatment.

As Dr. Bridget Okoeguale, Director of Public Health at Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health so aptly expressed, “We must work as a team or we cannot go anywhere.”

Promoting standardization

This is why USAID’s ENVISION Project implemented by RTI International and the Carter Center, and DfID’s UNITED project, led by Sightsavers, are establishing a new working order to donor-driven support for the national NTD programme in Nigeria – an alliance, aimed at exploiting synergies, eliminating duplication of efforts and maximizing impact of resources directed at NTD control and elimination.

With ENVISION working primarily in central and southern Nigeria and UNITED in northern Nigeria, the alliance helps the national program to maintain consistency and promote standardization of approaches across the various states, supporting not only the integrity of programming but also management functions such as drug logistics and data reporting, playing off the respective strengths of the partner organisations.

Children in Nasarawa State, Nigeria gather to learn how samples will be collected in their school. Photo by RTI International.

Children in Nasarawa State, Nigeria gather to learn how samples will be collected in their school. Credit: RTI International

Maximizing reach and impact

Teams from ENVISION and UNITED support many of the same core programme areas in the states where they work; activities like mass drug administration and community education and sensitization. But each project also brings additional areas of support, not necessarily provided by the other project. Forming this alliance has allowed more geographic reach for this expertise than could be achieved otherwise.

RTI International has introduced a new planning tool, the NTD Tool for Integrated Planning and Costing (TIPAC) across the country, and this is now being used nationwide to improve planning and costing. RTI has also worked with the WHO to develop an integrated NTD database platform that will allow the country to store, manage, analyze and report NTD data more effectively across all states.

Sightsavers has been focusing on improving supply chain management for commodities such as drugs in its project states. The national-level component of this project supports clearing of all NTD drugs to the national Drug Storage. Again, in this case, all other states benefit from strengthened supply chain capacity and are therefore able to maximize output. They have also developed behaviour change tools and strategies that will be applied across Nigeria.

The synergies that have resulted from this close alliance bring unique benefits to Nigeria’s national NTD programme and its ability to advance towards its elimination timeline, especially when coupled with the comparative advantages for implementation achieved through the coalition of organisations working across the nation.

As we enter another century in Nigeria’s history as a country, we are hopeful that this alliance will continue to be one of the critical pillars in supporting the Nigerian Government in reducing the NTD burden. Together we will see how, when a country is committed and aid organisations and international governments synchronize and combine their efforts, ambitious goals can be achieved and the lives of Nigerians improved forever.  

Nigeria Champions Integrated Approach to NTDs at the World Health Assembly

 

Photo credit: U.S. Mission Geneva / Eric Bridiers

By Helen Hamilton, on behalf of the UK Coalition against NTDs

The first six months of 2014 have already seen a number of milestones reached for the international neglected tropical disease (NTD) community, including the successful NTD-focused side event at the 67th World Health Assembly (WHA) in May and the celebration of progress made on eliminating river blindness by the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control  at the World Bank. A running theme throughout the discussions at these events has been the importance of taking an integrated approach to eliminating a number of NTDs by the end of the decade.

But what does “an integrated approach” mean in practice? It may mean integration of disease specific interventions into broader public health systems, across different groups of diseases or integration across sectors. Integration is not just another buzzword, but a real approach to effectively controlling this group of diseases. Both evidence and common sense tell us that we cannot expect to achieve and sustain our NTD control and elimination goals unless we also tackle the underlying causes — namely the provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene facilities (WASH) and  health care access — and do so in a joined-up way.

One example where integration is yielding results is in Nigeria. As a country with one of the heaviest burdens of NTDs globally, and one which has successfully launched its “NTD masterplan” (a multi-year national plan to control and eliminate several NTDs under the London Declaration), it offers a wealth of valuable insights. The WHA side event in May, which was hosted by the Nigerian government and supported by the UK Coalition against NTDs, south-south sharing of learning was central to the discussion.

Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwa, and the Director of Public Health, Dr. Bridget Okoeguale, highlighted what they see as the foundation of success in combating these diseases: building stronger health systems, equipped to deliver and sustain effective control programmes alongside interventions grounded in a public health approach. To this end, Dr. Okoeguale highlighted that Nigeria is working to embed NTD care within primary health care structures to bring together preventive and curative care. She called on the NTD and WASH sectors to work together across departments responsible for Environment, Water, Education, Housing and Media.

This is certainly an approach supported through the Nigerian NTD elimination programme led by Sightsavers, where both local government and global donors such as the UK government aid agency, DFID, have committed funds to control several NTDs. The success of this programme rides on all parties collaborating under a united goal and sharing knowledge and resources. The programme is designed to support the strengthening of the Nigerian health system alongside delivering targeted interventions to eliminate NTDs.

UKCNTD WHA attendees (3)

Creidt: Yael Vellemen, Wateraid

During the WHA event, this approach was supported by both the World Health Organization and international donors, including representatives from DFID and USAID, who emphasised the investments being made into WASH programmes in NTD endemic countries. Dr. Wendy Harrison, Chair of the UK Coalition against NTDs reiterated the importance of cross-sectoral collaboration to meet the WHO 2020 roadmap goals and the need to embed and standardise monitoring of the impact of NTD programmes on health systems.

All parties at the event were in clear agreement that cross-sectoral integration is vital and that without access to safe effective WASH and health services, NTD elimination will not be possible. However, whether or not this happens will depend on the level of political will, leadership and resources dedicated to achieving our goals in a sustainable way. As the recent announcement of £39m by the British Government to help support the elimination of trachoma in highly endemic countries in sub-Saharan Africa reminds us, NTDs have never been as well supported or as prominent on the global health agenda. However there still remains a global $200 million per year funding gap that needs to be addressed if we are to meet the ambitious goals of control and elimination as laid out in the 2012 London Declaration.

We need to make sure that we leverage these global commitments and this momentum to achieve our goals in a way that builds systems to provide safe and effective WASH and health services, and delivers on our commitment to control and eliminate these diseases in a sustainable way.

Download “The Power of Integration: A report from the WHA 2014”.

The UK Coalition against Neglected Tropical Diseases is a collaborative effort by UK organisation that are actively engaged in NTD research and implementation and in advocating for effective and sustainable NTD control programmes.

Find out more about them at www.ntd-coalition.org and follow them on Twitter @UK_NTD. This post also appears on the UK Coalition against NTDs blog.

Abuja Media Roundtable Highlights Necessity for Collaboration on Health

 

As African Ministers of Economy and Finance gathered at the Seventh Annual Joint African Union (AU)-United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Conference in Abuja, Nigeria, the Global Network joined a lively conversation with GAVI, Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership, and about 40 Nigerian reporters on how health, human capital and social development partnerships will catalyze widespread economic growth.

The AU-UNECA meetings, themed, “Industrialization for inclusive and transformative development in Africa,” could not have provided a more perfect backdrop to discuss health issues. Countries’ investments for building and sustaining strong, competitive economies need to include health services. Vibrant labor markets require a productive workforce, which is contingent on people’s health status.

Recognizing the role of health in economic growth and poverty alleviation, African leaders pledged to allocate 15 percent of their budgets to health through the Abuja Declaration. Yet 13 years post-Declaration, and the majority of African nations have not yet followed through.

With these issues at the forefront, Rotimi Sankore, coordinator of the Nigerian-based organization Afri-Dev, opened the media roundtable. He asked the journalists, “What are the success stories? What are the challenges we are facing?” He asked the development partners, “What are you contributing human capital development, health and socio-economic development? What are the gaps?”

Dr. Thomas Teuscher, deputy executive director, Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership

Dr. Thomas Teuscher, deputy executive director, Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership

Dr. Mercy Ahun, GAVI’s special-representative to GAVI-eligible countries, explained her organization’s role in saving lives through vaccines. GAVI spends about 64 percent of its commitments in Africa, which so far has amounted to more than five billion dollars. “Everyone in Africa knows the impact of measles on children and families. … We know that prevention is better.”

Journalists can spark a “dialogue to get a better vision for how the limited amount of development investment is channeled,” said Dr. Thomas Teuscher, deputy executive director of RBM. He also stressed why health is a priority. “You need to be in good shape, be healthy and survive to go to work every day. This is clearly a national investment. [We] need investments of governments to serve their people. This cannot just be aid finance,” he said.

Wangechi Thuo, senior program officer for Africa, Global Network

Wangechi Thuo, senior program officer for Africa, Global Network

Global Network’s Senior Program Officer for Africa, Wangechi Thuo, captivated the audience about neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). After explaining how NTDs are underlying drivers of poverty, Wangechi delivered a call to action: “African governments need to increase their domestic investments in health, and be innovative in how we use resources and see where we can have cost-savings. NTDs serve as a vehicle for how you can multi-sectoral investments, and how you can pull forth greater investments in human capital and for other sectors.”

Then, journalists from Nigeria and abroad shared their insights on the state of health reporting, how they can do their part in advancing the health MDGs and post-2015 development agenda discussions, and what’s needed for fruitful partnerships between the media and development organizations.

Ms. Moji Makanjuola, head of Health Desk at Nigerian Television Authority.

Ms. Moji Makanjuola, head of Health Desk at Nigerian Television Authority

Making an impassioned plea for increased health reporting to hold leaders accountable, Moji Makanjuola, head of the health desk at Nigerian Television Authority, said, “We have refused to see health as an investment … that can propel the development initiatives of the continent forward…We cannot do that. Until we move the agenda to make it a political agenda, we must ask questions.”

From AllAfrica.com, CEO and Cofounder Reed Kramer explained that they’re “trying to find new ways to work with media colleagues across the continent to make reporting possible and more effective.” Another media representative present, Habiba Bello-Giwa from Nigeria’s Premium Times, later shared her collaboration with AllAfrica.com to expand her paper’s investigative journalism section.

Mr. Martins Oloja, editor, Nigeria's Guardian Newspape

Mr. Martins Oloja, editor, Nigeria’s Guardian Newspaper

Echoing Ms. Makanjuola’s earlier sentiments, Martins Oloja, editor of Nigeria’s The Guardian stated, “Poverty in reporting what African leaders all over the place are not doing. We need to hold them to account. Why are they not funding health matter adequately? Where is the medium? The medium is the message.”

Ultimately, it is through a comprehensive approach to health that African nations can reduce the burden of disease and other pervasive public health threats – and lift millions of people out of poverty. Through a unified push, we can provide comprehensive health access and create more equitable, inclusive growth for all Africans. It is our hope that we will continue to explore ways to work together.

Thanks to all the partners at the media roundtable for a great discussion!