Filephoto: Givemore Mafukidze screening children in Mariga, Mbire, Zimbabwe (Source: Sightsavers.org)

By Ibrahim G. Ahmad

A baseline survey conducted by the Federal Ministry of Health, facilitated by the independent health experts group “Sightsavers”, has indicated that 2.5m people in Zamfara are vulnerable to contracting one or more Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).

State Program Officer of “Sightsavers”, Alhaji Ahmed Ibrahim, stated this at a press briefing in Gusau on Thursday, saying that the facts on the ground showed that all the 14 local government areas of the state were endemic for Lymphatic Filariasis.

Ibrahim added that other challenging endemic diseases associated with six local government areas in the state were River Blindness, Bilharzia, and Trachoma.

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He, however, explained that the prevalence of the diseases was on the decline due to the support from Sightsavers, to the extent that Trachoma was almost controlled, while Onchocerciasis was no longer posing any serious health threats.

The programme officer also revealed that Zamfara was one of the states benefitting from Sightsavers intervention for the control and prevention of NTDs since 1994, through the African Program on Onchocerciasis (APOC) control, and DFID.

Similarly, the state had for years been benefitting from the organisation in the control and prevention of five NTDs namely, River Blindness, Trachoma, Lymphatic Filariasis, Bilharzia and Soil-Transmitted Helminthiasis.

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He further explained that many of the diseases were silently affecting people in the rural communities, causing low productivity due to disability, caused by either blindness, difficulty in mobility in the case of elephantiasis, high school dropout rates, absenteeism and poor performance in schools due to Bilharzia.

Ibrahim gave the assurance of his organization’s commitment to the prevention of NTDs, through collaboration with state and local governments, Education, Agriculture and Water resources ministries, SUBEB, Primary Health Care Board, the Female education Board and the National Home-grown school feeding program.