Mr. Michael Igbe, the Programme Manager, National Onchocerciasis Elimination Programme, Federal Ministry of Health, says about 50 million Nigerians are at risk of getting infected with onchocerciasis, also called River Blindness.
Igbe said this in Ibadan during a media dialogue organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, in collaboration with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
The manager, who spoke on “Overview on Onchocerciasis Elimination in Nigeria”, said “treatment with ivermectin started in 1989, and in 1997, the Community Directed Treatment with Ivermectin (CDTI) strategy was adopted as the main strategy of programme implementation.
“At inception, Nigeria had interventions covering 32 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Now, 27 states and the FCT, with about 50 million persons in Nigeria are at risk of onchocerciasis.”
Igbe explained that the disease was caused by the nematode Onchocerca volvulus, which is the second leading cause of preventable blindness.
According to him, onchocerciasis is transmitted by the bite of an infected black fly: Simulium damnosum and other species, breeding in fast-flowing streams and rivers.
He noted that “people become blind early in life as from 20-30 years.”
He added that the major challenge faced in addressing the disease was insecurity in some local government areas.
Others, he said, were poor funding by government and inadequate logistics for Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) programme.
He noted that NTDs are viral, parasitic and bacterial diseases that mainly affect the world’s poorest people.