The World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that Nigeria alone bears over 25% of Africa’s vector borne disease burden. Dr. Rui Gama Vaz, WHO’s Country Representative for Nigeria who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja during a Ministerial briefing to commemorate 2014 World Health Day, with the theme, “Vector borne diseases: small bite, big threat”, however said it is encouraging to note that progress is being made to tackle these diseases.
According to him, malaria is on the downward trend and that river blindness is no longer a public health problem as the intervention drugs for Onchocerciasis, Schistosomiasis and Lymphatis filariasis are more or less secured and that, “Government has evolved a clear integrated vector management strategy.”
“These are demonstrations of Nigeria’s commendable commitment for tackling vector borne diseases in the country, and WHO is a proud partner in these great achievements”, he said.
Dr. Vaz said, in the Africa Region, the social and economic impact of vector-borne diseases is very high and the poorest people are most affected as in 2012 alone, there were an estimated 564, 000 deaths caused by malaria and 36,500 associated with sleeping sickness.
He added that, more than 45 million people are at risk of elephantiasis, and river blindness is still prevalent in 20 countries where 15.7 million people are infected by it and 500, 000 are visually impaired as a result of this infection.
Stressing further, Vaz however said although the sustained scaling-up of proven cost-effective interventions has led to significant reduction of vector-borne diseases, and that, much more needs to be done in the area of preventive measures for keeping the environment clean and less conducive to vector breeding and survival.
In his remark, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu said, Guinea worm Disease, a vector-borne disease has been eradicated from Nigeria, adding that, “Vector-borne diseases are preventable, yet they exert the biggest impact on our population, impoverishing, disabling and even killing people”.
According to Chukwu, renewed efforts by governments at all levels, development partners and other stakeholders have led to the reduction in morbidity and mortality of some of these vector-borne diseases.