By: Prudence Okonna
The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has said that the deworming drugs targeted at treating some of the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) endemic in the nation’s capital are free and not for sale.
Secretary, FCT Health Services and Environmental Secretariat (HSES), Dr. Adedolapo Fasawe, stated this during the Flag-off ceremony of the 2023 Mass Administration of Medicines (MAM), Thursday, in Wuse Market, Abuja.
The Secretary, who was represented at the occasion by the FCT State Epidemiologist, Teresa Nwachukwu, said that the deworming drugs are donated by the World Health Organization (WHO) through its partners Christoffel Blinden Mission (CBM) and Health and Development Support (HANDS) programme and, therefore, are free and accessible.
She called on the FCT residents to accept the deworming drugs and give maximum support to teachers in both private and public schools distributing the drugs to pupils aged 5-14 years as well as Community Directed Distributed (CDDs), who will be going from house to house to distribute these medicines.
Also speaking, NTDs Coordinator, FCT Dr. Eunice Ogundipe, said the essence of the flag-off in Wuse Market, is to scale up awareness of NTDs in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) which has not received adequate attention over the years.
She noted that based on the neglected nature of the diseases, awareness creation has been focused over time in the rural areas and has given residents in the city the illusion that that the diseases can not affect them.
Ogundipe explained that even though residents in the rural areas are more susceptible, those in the city are still predisposed, making the awareness and distribution of drugs in AMAC very important.
Senior Programme Officer, Esther Yakubu, HANDS, says that as a major partner of FCT in the elimination of NTDs for over two decades, the goal is to ensure equal opportunity in an inclusive society, hence, the flagship location is Wuse Market, so that no one is left behind.
According to the Technical Specialist, NTDs, Christoffel Blinden Mission (CBM), Joseph Kumbur, AMAC is one of the ten most endemic Local Government areas in Nigeria of Schistosomiasis (Snail Fever or Bilharzias) while all the six Area Councils are endemic for river blindness, four Area Councils are endemic for Lymphatic Filariasis.
He noted that even though FCT is at the verge of eliminating Lymphatic Filariasis, residents are still at risk and so, there is need for aggressive awareness creation to ensure that residents take adequate caution to protect themselves against all the NTDs until they reach the finish line of elimination.
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a group of parasitic and bacterial infections associated with poverty and prevalent in areas that have poor sanitation, inadequate safe water sources, and substandard housing conditions.
Fifteen out of twenty NTDs listed by the WHO have been identified in Nigeria but five have been prioritized for funding, namely, Onchocerciasis (River Blindness), Schistosomiasis (Snail Fever or Bilharzias), Lymphatic Filariasis (Elephantiasis and Hydrocele), Soil Transmitted Helminthes (Intestinal Worms) and Trachoma (Trachoma).
The distribution is carried out once annually and the drugs include Ivermectin, Praziquantel, and Albendazole tablets for the treatment of three diseases, Onchocerciasis, Schistosomiasis, and Lymphatic Filariasis.
The FCT NTDs unit is expected to cover the 559 communities in the FCT for the treatment of these diseases.