By Peter Duru
As part of efforts to check cases of river blindness or onchocerciasis in parts of Nigeria , over 19million Nigerians infected or at the risk of infection by the disease have been availed professional treatment and drugs in the last 12 years to arrest the spread of the tropical disease in the country.
Country Director of the Helen Keller International HKI Dr. Omo Ohiokpehai dropped this hint in Makurdi while on an advocacy visit to Benue State .
According to her, the intervention which has effectively curtailed the spread of onchocerciasis in Nigeria was made possible through a close collaboration between the government of Nigeria , the Helen Keller International, the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control APOC and the endemic communities.
She observed that with the facilitating role of HKI, the treatment of the targeted populations doubled from 402,034 in 1998 to 978,819 in 1999 with the intake of Ivermecin which is known for its potency in the treatment of Onchocerciasis.
â€œThere has been a steady increase in the number of people treated in the past eight years with annual figures now reaching over 1.9million peopleâ€.
Ohiokpehai informed that the goal of the programme which aimed at controlling Neglected Tropical Diseases NTD like river blindness in the country was to establish what she called the Community Direct Treatment with Ivermectin CDTI.
She noted that the collaboration â€œhas ensured annual delivery of Ivermectin tablets to the eligible population infected or at the risk of the infection by the diseaseâ€.
Further, she opined that onchocerciasis has been identified as a parasitic disease and one of the avoidable causes of blindness in parts of Nigeria hence the efforts to check its spread in the country should be supported by all.
She further noted that at present there has been increasing community awareness of the diseases and the deliberate measures put in place to curtail its spread in parts of the country hence paving the way for increased levels of participation in the programme activities in the country.