To combat the outbreak of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis, a Neglected Tropical Disease, World Health Organization has supported the Borno State government to create awareness in high risk communities on the cause of the disease, the preventive measures and the need for immediate reporting and treatment.
The NTD National Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Anyaika Chkwuma disclosed this in a statement.
“We have been working with WHO and the state governments to eliminate Leishmaniasis and other NTDs in the country. We have been working on sensitizing and raising awareness about the disease in the communities, improving surveillance, and educating the people about the importance of seeking medical attention.
“The next step is to continually sensitize the people on the importance of using mosquito nets,” he said.
Leishmaniasis (NTD) that is majorly caused by bites from sand flies has prevented affected adults and children from going to school, working, or fully participating in community life, contributing to stigma and the cycle of poverty in Borno State.
Research has shown that, the phlebotomine sandflies carry the Leishmania parasite and infect humans, causing either skin sores or internal organ damage, respectively. The cutaneous type which affects the skin only is predominantly reported in Nigeria while the visceral type, which is by far more fatal is reported elsewhere.
A stitch in time saves nine. But a 25 years old taxi driver, Bako Ibrahim, who was infected with the disease and Yero, a 56-year-old farmer, a resident of Maiduguri LGA whose two children had sores on their faces and hands and also diagnosed with same ailment were devoid of the saying.
“I do not know how I contracted the disease. I saw the sore on my left hand and later both hands, and it was not healing. I went to the hospital, where they told me I have a disease. I have not been able to work in the last eight weeks because of the sore on my hands,” Bako said.
Yero said though the disease was not new to the community, he has no idea how his children contracted it.
“It is not my first time seeing the disease. I have noticed it in my community, but I did not know the name until two of my children were diagnosed with the disease. We had thought it was caused by drinking and bathing with dirty water, but now I know better,” he said.
Essentially, Leishmaniasis is closely associated with poverty, migration, poor sanitation, malnutrition, weak immune system, lack of safe water sources, substandard housing conditions and deficient healthcare access. In the last two years, there have been reported cases in some part of the country, with Borno state recording the highest prevalence of cases.
Malam Bako, who appreciated the government and WHO for treatment and efforts to contain the disease, said he is now better and looking forward to going back to work. “Now that I have received treatment, I am fine and looking forward to resuming work. I will like to thank the government and the WHO, that provided timely intervention”.
The WHO team has supported the State health authorities in training 40 health workers and 60 community announcers in 12 communities to raise awareness and sensitize the people about the prevention of the infection and support case findings and referrals to the teaching hospital.
Even though, a new organization, Zakinyhe Foundation Centre for Disease Research and Control started working on Leishmaniasis in Adamawa and Yobe states, WHO has pledged its unflinching commitment to supporting the government of Borno state to prevent and control disease outbreaks in the State in additional training of health workers, community sensitization and improved prevention methods against the sand flies.