By Jonathan Ugbal
The Cross River Government says it is committed to fighting Onchocerciasis which is prevalent in 15 out of the 18 local government areas of the state.
Commonly referred to as River Blindness and caused by the parasitic worm, Onchocerca volvulus, it is the second most common cause of blindness due to infection, after trachoma according to Wikipedia and is among the four Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) that the state wants to eliminate by 2020 says the health commissioner, Dr. Inyang Asibong.
The others are Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH), Lymphatic Filariasis and Schistosomiasis.
“We are working on Onchocerciasis, we are working on Soil Transmitted Helminths. We are working on Lymphatic Filariasis” Inyang said at the side lines of the 2017 planning meeting of the NTD office in Calabar Thursday.
“The state government, the ministry of health and of course our partners are working towards elimination of neglected tropical diseases in Cross River State.
“It is a 5-year plan and we are onto the second year so by 2020 we hope to have eliminated neglected tropical diseases from Cross River State.
“There is very huge support from the state government, we are going out to communities, giving out free drugs like brazucansult mainly to school children. But, in this year we want to scale up to work with children at home and adults who already have morbidities from this progress.
“We already know about elephantiasis where the legs are always very very swollen and they are always many attendant consequences to it. We did school children last year and apart from them, we are going into communities now working with adults, working with people with morbidities to make sure that we completely eliminate neglected tropical diseases” Dr. Asibong said.
The coordinator of NTDs in the state, Dr. Thomas Ogbang told CrossRiverWatch that there is hope the five year plan will succeed as the state has two partners who are supporting in its implementation and listed out the prevalence rates of the other NTDs.
“The five year action plan is a strategic plan by the federal government to ensure that in five years, that is in 2020 the NTDs should not be of public health significance and because of that the Federal and State Governments as well as international partners are leveraging on that to help assist the state.
“We are lucky that we have two partners; Evidence Action and Research Triangle Institute International (RTI) who are supporting us technically and financially to ensure that. The state Government has also promised that they are going to put in some money to ensure that this goes.
“For Cross River State we have four Neglected Tropical Diseases particularly, Onchocerciasis which is prevalent in 15 local government areas, we have Lymphatic Filariasis transmitted by mosquitoes which is prevalent in 10 LGAs, we have Schistosomiasis prevalent in 9 LGAs and we have Soil Transmitted Helminths prevalent in 6 LGAs.
“Once these ones are properly taken care of, we are sure especially for Schistosomiasis and STH, the impact is more on children, school age children and that is why the strategy for implementation is school based for all the people in school from age 5 to 14 are taken care of by this” Dr.Ogbang said.
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