By Justina Auta
Sightsavers Nigeria, an international NGO says Kaduna, Plateau and Nasarawa states recorded no new cases of river blindness.
The information is in a statement issued on Friday by the organisation’s Communication Officer, Ms Joy Tarbo, noting that the states have met World Health Organisation’s (WHO) threshold in verifying interruption in transmission of the disease.
According to Tarbo, a new research by Nigerian authors published by the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene has confirmed the elimination of river blindness, also known as onchocerciasis in Plateau, Nasarawa and Kaduna states.
Onchocerciasis or river blindness, is a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) caused by the parasitic worm called Onchocerca Volvulus.
The communication officer stated that in 2019, Nigeria’s Ministry of Health announced that more than 4.2 million people have been freed from the threat of river blindness, spread by the infected bite of black flies which breed in fast flowing rivers in the three states.
“Nigeria’s efforts verifying river blindness transmission has been interrupted, and that the three states have met World Health Organization thresholds that define this.
“Methods used in the survey of over 9,000 children finds that thousands of hours were spent catching samples of black flies to test that the flies were no longer infected.”
Tarbo said that surveys conducted as part of Accelerating the Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases in West and Central Africa (ASCEND) Programme showed there were no new cases of the disease in the states.
“And no evidence of the parasite in the black flies that spread it.
“With World Health Organisation threshold for transmission interruption met, the regular distribution of medicine to prevent the disease could be halted in these states,” she said.
The communications officer explained that the ASCEND was a flagship programme funded by UK Aid and delivered by a consortium of partners led by Sightsavers.
The NGO’s Country Director, Dr Sunday Isiyaku, said “Nigeria has made great strides in the fight against diseases with support from Sightsavers and partners.
“It is therefore a great honour to have this research paper published, detailing the huge efforts that led to this milestone and showing how the reality of river blindness elimination can be achieved.
“The last meeting of the National Onchocerciasis Elimination Committee indicated that more than five states in total are likely to achieve interruption in transmission by 2025.
“The international recognition from the research paper will help these other states in their journey to interrupt transmission.”
Isiyaku, therefore, emphasised the need for treatment and prevention for other Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) to be integrated into the health system.
According to him, pressure must be kept up even as the country gets closer to elimination of many NTDs.
Nigerian government during the Kigali Summit on NTDs in June pledged to increase funding to support the elimination of the diseases.
The government also restated the need for strengthened collaboration on the implementation of water, sanitation, and hygiene initiatives (WASH).