As 2012 unfolds for 2013, WINIFRED OGBEBO reports that apart from its size, Nigeria also shares several firsts by having the highest incidence of diseases.
In his speech at the signing of additional $335m phase two grant for HIV and Tuberculosis, December last year in Abuja, Mark Edington, Head of the Grant Management Division of the Global Fund, emphatically stated that Nigeria stands at a crossroad.
The challenge ahead is formidable, he stressed, and “a great deal remains to be done.” According to him, the world cannot reach the MDGs without significant progress in Nigeria.
“This is a sobering thought. Nigeria has the second highest number of people estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in the world. In 2011, only about 30 per cent of the people needing drugs received them in terms of ARVs. The coverage of Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission (PMTCT) was only about 16 per cent. Nigeria also has one of the lowest case TB detection in the world. So there’s a lot to be done, “he stated.
At a press briefing to mark last year’s World AIDS Day in December, the Director, Resource Mobilisation, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr Emmanuel Alhassan disclosed that there were slightly less than 500,000 people on Anti retroviral treatment, which is a far cry from the one million, five hundred and fifteen thousand people that actually need to be on treatment.
“That is one huge challenge. We need huge resources again to fill in the PMCT gap because Nigeria has the highest burden of PMTCT in the world. We all probably also know that Nigeria has the highest burden of orphans and vulnerable children. So the gaps are huge.”
According to Global Fund report, Nigeria, with over 165 million inhabitants is by far Africa’s most populous country, has an estimated 210,000 TB cases annually.
New estimates published in the 2011 report Levels & Trends in Child Mortality, issued by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), which is led by UNICEF and WHO and includes the World Bank and the UN Population Division, states that;
About half of under-five deaths occur in only five countries: India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and China. India (22 per cent) and Nigeria (11 per cent) together account for a third of all under-five deaths.
The number of child deaths from malaria is also very high. Malaria accounts for about one in six of all childhood deaths in the country. It kills about 300,000 people in Nigeria annually with about 97 per cent of the population at risk of infection.
In a press statement to mark last year’s World Malaria Day, the Executive Director, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Anthony Lake, said, though malaria is both preventable and curable, hundreds of thousands of children, primarily in Africa, will perish because of lack of access to Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) and to life-saving treatment within 24 hours of onset of symptoms and that waiting even six hours for treatment can mean life or death for a sick child.
Twenty per cent of under five deaths in Nigeria have been attributed to Pneumonia, which is second only to malaria (24 %), followed by diarrhoea (16%), measles (6%) and 5% due to HIV/AIDS.
As Nigeria marked the World Pneumonia Day, last year , it was revealed that there are about 6 million new cases of the disease annually, killing about 200,000 children in Nigeria.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, disclosed that for every child who dies from pneumonia in an industrialized country, more than 2,000children die from it in developing countries including Nigeria.
Malnutriton is also an underlying cause in more than a third of under-five deaths.
Out of the 60 million children that have stunted growth globally due to malnutrition, Nigeria alone accounts for 11 million of these and is predicted to have about 2.4 million additional stunted children by 2020.
In a new Global Report ‘A life free from hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition’, Save the Children said that despite being one of the largest oil producers in the world, nearly one out of five (11 million) chronically malnourished children in Africa live in Nigeria,
According to statistics, Nigeria has the worst child mortality rate in Africa and they will also have the worst maternal mortality rate in Africa. Globally, its maternal mortality rate is second only to India.
“Approximately over 500 women will die in every 100,000 as a result of giving birth to children which is not supposed to be like that. Averagely too, close to 200 children out of 10,000 that are given birth to will die within the first five years which is high enough.”
A global polio vaccination campaign has eradicated the disease from everywhere except Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
The Assistant Director- General, World Health Organisation for Polio, Emergency and Country Collaboration, Dr Bruce Alyward, said that the country is not on track to achieve it’s polio eradication goal on time.
He said that the increasing cases of wild polio virus in the country constitute a real and growing international public health risk.
Alward who was speaking in Abuja during the 24th meeting of the Expert Review Committee (ERC) on Polio Eradication and Routine Immunisation in Nigeria, said that Nigeria is the only country in the world to record polio cases consistently in the last two years and the only country with increasing cases of the virus in the world.
Polio can paralyze or kill within hours of infection. It is transmitted person-to-person, meaning that as long as one child is infected, the disease can be passed to others.
Expressing sadness over the development, the President, Nigerian Medical Association,(NMA), Dr Osahon Enabulele, said that in the last 52 years of Nigeria’s history, Nigeria’s health sector like other sectors has had a chequered past with uninspiring national health indices.
“It is worrisome that Nigeria, the supposed giant of Africa with enormous tangible and intangible resources, has a health system that is still struggling with those of less endowed countries. Indeed, it is pathetic that Nigeria is still struggling with some war-torn countries in Africa for the gold medal in polio eradication following her inability to eradicate it. Evidently, Nigeria’s health indices are still poorer than those of most other African countries, including Ghana, South Africa and Kenya. Little wonder that Nigeria was ranked 187th out of 191 member countries by the WHO in 2000. The situation in 2000 has not markedly changed, despite the commendable efforts of the current Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi C.O. Chukwu”.