This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: 15 Million Nigerians Suffer From Asthma, Tuberculosis

Aside from Malaria and the dreaded Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which are frequent killer diseases, medical experts have warned that there are other dreaded diseases, which have afflicted as many as 15 million Nigerians. The ailments are asthma, tuberculosis and other chest-related diseases.

The red flag was raised in a communiqué by the Nigerian Thoracic Society (NTS) at the weekend when it rounded off its annual general meeting in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital.

The diseases, according to experts, have managed to afflict many Nigerians because of poor awareness of its causes and how they can be prevented. Apart from Tuberculosis, not many people tend to attach that much importance to Asthma, which experts say, is also a major killer.

Additionally, it does not easily knock down or demobilise its sufferer, so the tendency to carry on with routine activities among sufferers is high.

The NTS's president, Professor Gregory Erhabo, who read out the communiqué, attributed the high number of Nigerians suffering from asthma and other chest-related diseases to lack of preventive measures and the lukewarm attitude of some people.

He described asthma, which is essentially caused by cold, or exposure of the chest region to cold, as a chronic disease, which has claimed the lives of several eminent and lowly or ordinary Nigerians. He called for the establishment of thoracic health centres in each of the geopolitical zones in the country to cater for the cure and prevention of asthma and other chest-related ailments.

The body noted that with such centres across Nigeria, fatalities resulting from the diseases would drastically drop. Erhabo further charged the three tiers of government to set aside funds for the prevention and care of chest related ailments in the country.

Besides the establishment of the specialist centres in the six geopolitical zones, the NTS also made a strong case for the recruitment of more experts in chest-related ailments who will be in charge of prevention and cure of the diseases, stressing that preventing the disease was not as expensive as treating it.

Ministries of Health at various tiers of government will also do well to undertake mass campaigns on the causes, preventive measures and therapy options for the ailments, he said. He disclosed that the society is collaborating with the American thoracic society and Africa thoracic society to eliminate tuberculosis, asthma and other chest-related problems.

Meanwhile, in order to forestall the crushing effect of meningitis, another killer disease, the Sokoto State Government is determined to immunise as many as three million people in the state. The targeted number will be attended to during the ongoing immunisation exercise meant to inoculate the citizenry against cerebral-spinal meningitis (CSM) in the state.

The Special Adviser to the governor, State Primary Health Care Development Agency, Malam Ibrahim Jibril, made this known to journalists in Sokoto at the weekend. According to him, the state government has earmarked about N1 billion for the successful conduct of the vaccination against the disease. Cerebral-spinal meningitis (CSM) remains prevalent ailment in parts of the Northern states of Nigeria.

Jibril explained that the exercise was jointly being carried out between the federal, states and local government councils as well as development partners. He said only those between the ages of one and 29 years would be vaccinated, adding that the vaccination exercise is free and would last for 10 days. He expressed optimism that the target population would be covered during the period.

In contrast to past vaccines, the special adviser noted that the current vaccines had been improved upon, adding that each would be administered on one person only.

Mass education on the importance, relevance and essence of the immunisation exercise had to be embarked upon by the state government because of past experience, where some community leaders had dissuaded their subjects from taking inoculation under the false claim that the immunisation was meant to sterilise them.

In the light of this, the special adviser explained that over 126 religious leaders had been mobilised, so they can in turn encourage their followers to take part in the immunisation if they are within the target age bracket. He called on the people to avail themselves of the opportunity to get vaccinated against meningitis.

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