AS Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark this yearâ€™s World Health Day, the World Health Organisation, WHO, has raised alarm over the threat of vector-borne diseases on more than half the worldâ€™s population, even as it called for higher priority on vector control to save lives.
Also, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has called for the establishment of an aggressive, well-funded and supervised environmental management programme to tackle menace of disease laden organisms which have contributed to the huge disease burden in Nigeria.
In a statement, WHO called for a renewed focus on vector control and better provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene â€“ key strategies outlined in its (WHOâ€™s) 2011 Roadmap for the control, elimination and eradication of neglected tropical diseases, which sets targets for the period 2012â€“2020.
Some of the vector borne diseases includes malaria, dengue, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, schistosomiasis, and yellow fever â€“ carried by mosquitoes, flies, ticks, water snails and other vectors.
Every year, more than one billion people are infected by these diseases and more than one million die.
The theme for this year â€“ â€œPreventing Vector Borne Diseasesâ€, and the slogan â€œSmall bite, big threatâ€ is targeted at emphasizing that these diseases are entirely preventable.
Vector-borne diseases affect the poorest populations, particularly where there is a lack of access to adequate housing, safe drinking water and sanitation. Malnourished people and those with weakened immunity are especially susceptible.
Speaking on the Day, WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan explained that â€œA global health agenda that gives higher priority to vector control could save many lives and avert much suffering. Simple, cost-effective interventions like insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying have already saved millions of lives,â€ No one in the 21st century should die from the bite of a mosquito, a sandfly, a blackfly or a tick.â€
Mosquito-borne dengue, for example, is now found in 100 countries, including Nigeria, putting more than 2.5 billion people â€“ over 40 percent of the worldâ€™s population â€“ at risk. In Nigeria, malaria is classified the most deadly disease.
â€œVector control remains the most important tool in preventing outbreaks of vector-borne diseases,â€ says Dr Lorenzo Savioli, Director of WHOâ€™s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. â€œIncreased funds and political commitment are needed to sustain existing vector-control tools, as well as medicines and diagnostic tools â€“ and to conduct urgently needed research.â€
Speaking on the development, NMA President, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, expressed worry that Nigeria is still grappling with issues of development at the very foundational levels.
â€œIt is a known fact that Vectors are most commonly found in areas and habitations characterised by scarcity of potable water, poor housing conditions, poor environmental hygiene and abject poverty, succinctly summarised by the WHO as â€œCommunities left behind by developmentâ€.
â€œNMA is of the view that not until an aggressive, deeply committed, well-funded and supervised environmental management program is instituted, Nigeria may not heave a sigh of relief in her fight against the menacing unsolicited advances of the disease laden organisms which have undoubtedly contributed to the huge disease burden in Nigeria,â€ the statement stated.
â€œWe expect the three tiers of government to enforce strict implementation of enabling public health and housing laws; institute measures for proper waste/sewage disposal and other preventive measures, construct roads with standard and well maintained drains,â€ he stressed.
They further called on Government to ensure that Nigerians are vaccinated against vector-borne diseases that have preventive vaccines, while providing drugs for known vector-borne diseases.
He advised Nigerians not to abandon the ideals of personal hygiene, environmental and home sanitation, as well as other home grown innovative vector control measures.
The NMA president appealed to the mass media, National Orientation Agency, Federal and State Ministries of Information to religiously disseminate genuine and accurate information about disease outbreaks and modalities for containment.
He further expressed concern about the dwindling budgetary allocation to the health sector, which he said was capable of incapacitating agencies of government in rendering their statutory and contingency roles in healthcare delivery.