Stakeholders working to reduce the burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases, NTDs, in Nigeria have decried high prevalence in Nigeria, saying over 120 million Nigerians are at risk. The Africa Regional Adviser on Public Affairs of the END Fund, Oyetola Oduyemi in her submission blamed the high burden on low awareness around NTDS in Nigeria, noting that Africa alone accounts for more than 40 percent of the global burden.
Oyetola who spoke during the Beat NTDs Football tournament weekend in Lagos to raise awareness on Neglected Tropical Diseases in Kosefe area of Lagos, explained that NTDs affect more than 1.5 billion people worldwide.
”Of this burden, more than 40 percent is borne by Africa while over 120million Nigerians are at risk of one or more NTDs, according to the World Health Organisation. “These diseases result in illnesses and prevent optimal economic growth among others.
Stating that TheENDFund is the only private philanthropic organisation globally, devoted to tackling the NTDs, she said they are working with the Federal Ministry of Health’s NTD control programme to support NTDs control programmes in pertinent states across Nigeria.
Stressing that local knowledge and awareness were critical components to drive the control and elimination of NTDs, she said they signed an agreement with StreetFootballWorld in late 2018 with the idea of using the lessons learned from the Sports for Development field, to expand NTD knowledge and awareness through football.
Oduyemi said through StreetFootballWorld’s network, the END Fund is collaborating with Youth Empowerment and Development Initiative, YEDI, in Lagos to pilot the programme designed to incorporate NTD education into the football curriculum.
On his part, StreetFootBallWorld West African Regional Coordinator, Paul Kelly said that StreetFootballWorld collaboration with other partners to drive awareness messages around NTDs through football as it remains one of the best platforms to bring together a large number of people most especially at-risk age group.
“We boast of more than 130 organization networks globally that use football for social development and 44 out of this number are in Africa, YEDI is the one we work within Nigeria. Our involvement in this project specifically is the idea that football can be use to promote positive health messages.”
On his part, Executive Director, YEDI, Mr. Oje Ivagba said: “Although NTDs are preventable as well as treatable, over 120 million Nigerians are affected. What’s preventable (and treatable) cannot continue to hold our people captive. That’s why this intervention by The END Fund, Streetfootballworld and CommonGoal – who are supporting this project – is timely and laudable.”
Noting that NTDS has over the years been seen as diseases of the poor and that studies have negated that it is now the diseases of everybody, Ivagba said the findings show that the disease is more prevalent in Kosefe area of Lagos as there are rivers around the area.
The representative of the Lagos State’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Coordinator, Jenriola Olanrewaju said the use of football in the NTDs advocacy was strategic and would definitely yield results because the messages will trickle down to the grassroots faster than any other route.
“And the fact that young people are targeted in this messaging is also very strategic because whatever preventive message they are hearing, will be relayed to their parents and friends. And that is exactly what I have seen today – many young people trouped out today who are sure to tell their parents and community members.”