World Health Organisation emphasizes on prevention of vector-borne diseases in this year’s celebration of the World Health Day
| By Chinwe Okafor | Apr. 21, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
PREVENTION of vector-borne diseases was the focus of this year’s celebration to commemorate the World Health Day in Nigeria on Monday, April 7. The federal and state governments, the World Health Organisations, the United Nations and some non-governmental organisations organized various activities on that date to sensitize the public on the prevention of vector borne diseases in accordance with the 2014 World Health Day, theme entitled: “Vector-borne Diseases, Small Bites, Big Threats.”
Onyebuchi Chukwu, minister of health, said that vaccine and treatment for most vector diseases were yet to be found. He therefore advised Nigerians to take precaution to prevent the occurrence of vector borne diseases and explained that vector-borne diseases were infectious agents, such as viruses, bacteria and parasites that living creatures carry and pass on to other living creatures. He said the disease carriers called ‘vectors,’ were usually mosquitoes, ticks and mammals and listed examples of vector-borne diseases to include, dengue fever, malaria, yellow fever, lassa fever and ebola.
“The individual and the community have a vital role to play, we must abandon some traditional practices that promote the spread of these vector-borne diseases and assume responsibility for personal hygiene. Such traditional practices include staying late in the open or sleeping outside without clothes, poor handling of dogs, consumption of unwholesome food and water. The bad news is that, currently, there are no effective vaccines against most of these disease while the good news is that we can protect ourselves by taking simple measures,’’ Chukwu said.
According to him, the prevalence of some of the diseases increased as a result of population, climate change and human activities which have negative health impact. He noted that vector-borne diseases were preventable, yet they exert the biggest impact on the population. He urged the public to help government track down any suspected case of ebola disease, advising that people should go for proper diagnosis of malaria and avoid self medication.
This situation prompted the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, to call for the establishment of an aggressive, well-funded and supervised environmental management programme to tackle the menace of disease laden organisms which have contributed to the huge disease burden in Nigeria. Osahon Enabulele, NMA President, expressed worry that Nigeria is still grappling with issues of development at very foundational levels.
He said that it is a known fact that vectors are most commonly found in areas and habitations characterized by scarcity of potable water, poor housing conditions, poor environmental hygiene and abject poverty. “We 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,” he said.
He further called on the government to ensure that Nigerians are vaccinated against vector-borne diseases that have preventive vaccines, while also providing drugs for known vector-borne diseases. Enabulele then advised Nigerians not to abandon the ideals of personal hygiene, environmental and home sanitation, as well as other home grown innovative vector control measures. He 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 their containment.
The NMA boss further expressed concern over 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. Jumia, Nigeria’s biggest and fastest growing online retail store also joined millions around the world to celebrate the World Health Day. Monica Rucki, managing director, human resources, Jumia Nigeria, said that their employees’ wellness went beyond making sure that the work environment was conducive, but also focusing on sanitation around the office environment.
“This and more we have made a priority, because the environment tells a lot on the health of our employees and it also eliminates chances of contacting the vector-borne diseases. It is important to create awareness as the fight is not only for the authorities or other charities. The more, we speak about it, the more voices are heard passing the message around. When it comes to health, we need collaborative efforts from everyone, which is why we at Jumia are enlightening people to be aware and make necessary positive changes to the environment,” Rucki said.
The World Health Organisation says that the threat of vector-borne diseases are on more than half of the world’s population, and calls for higher priority on vector control to save lives. Rui Vaz, a medical doctor and the World Health Organisation representative in Nigeria, said that in the African region, the social and economic impact of vector-borne diseases was very high and that the poorest were the most affected. He added that in 2012, there was an estimated 564,000 deaths caused by malaria and 36,500 associated with sleeping sickness, saying more than 45 million people are at risk of elephantiasis.
“Factors that contribute to the burden of vector-borne diseases include poor environmental sanitation, poor living condition and climate changes that are conducive to the breeding of the vectors adding that vector resistance to insecticides constitutes a serious threat to vector control. The general public needs to know that we can protect ourselves and our families by taking simple preventive measures such as keeping our environment clean and less conducive to vector breeding and survival,” he said.
Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, explained that a global health agenda that gives higher priority to vector control could save many lives and avert much suffering. He added that simple, cost-effective interventions like insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying have saved millions of lives. “Vector control remains the most important tool in preventing outbreaks of vector-borne diseases,” said Lorenzo Savioli, director of WHO’s department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases.