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Nigeria moves to end communicable diseases among people who use drugs

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“I have been injecting drugs for a long time and we share syringes,” says Ali who lives in the suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and recently diagnosed to be co-infected with Tuberculosis (TB) and HIV. Consequent to difficulties of life in the streets, Ali was exposed to drug use as early as age 10 and started using injectable drugs when he was 14. “I wish I can stop now though, but It is very difficult” he laments. 

In response to the plight of people like Ali, the Nigerian Government is making moves to end communicable diseases among people who use drugs.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of 2017 estimated that 271 million people globally were said to use drugs of which 11.3 million are injectable (Source: UN World Drug report 2019). In addition to associated mortality, injecting drug use has been linked with transmission of communicable diseases including HIV, Hepatitis C, Tuberculosis and a host of other blood-borne infections. People who inject drugs (PWID) account for 10% of HIV infections and about 23% of new Hepatitis C infections, while Tuberculosis is a leading AIDS-defining illness and cause of mortality among people living with HIV who inject drugs (Source: WHO – HIV Topics / WHO Hepatitis C factsheet).

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“Nigeria, with her huge population continues to experience an untold effect of drug use especially among youth,” say Mr Mashood Lawal Director Food and Drugs, Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH).

In addition, Government is making concerted efforts to address communicable diseases associated with drug use. This is being achieved through programming for key population groups within various national programmes focusing mainly on behavioral change and preventive interventions, including attempts at biomedical support and dilatory effects.

An independent report commissioned by the Global Fund in 2016 indicates a burgeoning need for a full package of interventions for these population group as defined by WHO. Also the findings of the national drug use survey conducted in 2018, revealed that 14.4% of the general population use drugs, a rate higher than the global average of 5.6%. The report further reveals that there are more people who inject drugs than previously estimated and of concern are injecting practices with increased risk of HIV and Viral Hepatitis transmission (UNODC-National Drug Use Survey Report,2018 ). This evidence calls for a holistic health sector driven approach for curbing the menace of drug use.

With this compelling evidence, WHO advocated to FMoH for the need to define a health response for the drug control. Hence, the National Programme on Drug Demand and Harm Reduction (NDDHR) which is closely linked to the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) was established in May,2019 with the mandate of coordinating the health sector response to drug use. Similarly, a National technical working group (TWG) was inaugurated to support the take-off of the programme.

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“Since inception of the programme, WHO has been at the forefront, leading other partners including the UN Organization for Drug Control, Global Fund and national stakeholders to support the government to develop a policy statement and strategy which will be incorporated into the National Drug Control Master Plan,” states Dr Rex Mpazanje, Communicable/Non communicable diseases cluster lead for WHO Nigeria.

“Similarly, a road map and National guideline for the implementation of a needle and syringe program (NSP) geared towards the elimination of communicable among PWID was developed. The NSP which is being funded through the Global Fund with technical support from WHO is expected to be piloted in 3 states across the country in the coming months,” he added.

Beyond communicable diseases, WHO is concerned with other health and social burdens associated with drug use. Therefore, efforts will continue to be made to enhance public health actions by providing the required leadership, strengthening partnerships and collaboration between government and health institutions towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 2030 (SDG 2030).

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Every year, 1.9 million people die from tobacco-induced heart disease – Report

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tobacco responsible for 20% of deaths from coronary heart disease

 

Every year, 1.9 million people die from tobacco-induced heart disease, according to a new brief released on Tuesday by the World Health Organization, World Heart Federation and the University of Newcastle Australia ahead of World Heart Day, marked on 29 September.

This equates to one in five of all deaths from heart disease, warn the report’s authors, who urge all tobacco users to quit and avoid a heart attack, stressing that smokers are more likely to experience an acute cardiovascular event at a younger age than non-smokers.

Just a few cigarettes a day, occasional smoking, or exposure to second-hand smoke increase the risk of heart disease. But if tobacco users take immediate action and quit, then their risk of heart disease will decrease by 50% after one year of not smoking.

“Given the current level of evidence on tobacco and cardiovascular health and the health benefits of quitting smoking, failing to offer cessation services to patients with heart disease could be considered clinical malpractice or negligence. Cardiology societies should train their members in smoking cessation, as well as to promote and even drive tobacco control advocacy efforts,” said Dr Eduardo Bianco, Chair of the World Heart Federation Tobacco Expert Group.

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The brief also shows that smokeless tobacco is responsible for around 200 000 deaths from coronary heart disease per year. E-cigarettes also raise blood pressure increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Moreover, high blood pressure and heart disease increase the risk of severe COVID-19. A recent WHO survey found that among people dying of COVID-19 in Italy, 67% had high blood pressure and in Spain, 43% of people who developed COVID-19 were living with heart disease.

Governments have a responsibility to protect the health of their people and help reverse the tobacco epidemic. Making our communities smoke-free reduces the number of tobacco-related hospital admissions, which is more important than ever in the context of the current pandemic,” said Dr Vinayak Prasad, Unit Lead of the WHO No Tobacco Unit.

Tobacco control is a key element for reducing heart disease. Governments can help tobacco users quit by increasing tax on tobacco products, enforcing bans on tobacco advertising and offering services to help people give up tobacco.

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COVID-19: Lagos health commissioner, Abayomi tests positive

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The Lagos State Commissioner for Health,  Prof. Akin Abayomi, has tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Gbenga Omotoso, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, disclosed this in  a statement issued on Monday.

The statement also added that Abayomi had close contact with persons feeling unwell who tested positive for COVID-19.

“Subsequent to close contact with persons feeling unwell and testing positive for the COVID-19 infection, the Honorable Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, has tested positive for the virus.

“Professor Abayomi became aware of his status following the required testing protocol of contact tracing procedures,” the statement partly read.

The commissioner who had no symptoms of the virus, is adhering to the protocol of home-based strategy in the state.

While embarking on self-isolation for the next 14 days, he will still continue to discharge his duties both as the Deputy Incident Commander of the Incident Command System for COVID-19 and as the Commissioner for Health.

Meanwhile, members of the State Executive Council wish him a speedy recovery during the period.

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COVID-19: Imo govt. launches innovative mobile health insurance with support from WHO

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The Governor of Imo State, Mr. Hope Uzodinma last Wednesday launched the innovative Mobile Health Insurance Programme in Owerri.

This mobile health insurance initiative has been designed with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) to achieve seamless coverage of the over 96% population in the informal sector of the State on health insurance while reducing the existing out-of-pocket expenditure of 92%. The mobile platforms in addition, provide automated opportunities for philanthropists to graciously adopt the poor and vulnerable on health insurance.

In his remarks, the  Governor appreciated the leadership role of WHO in the health sector of the state and globally especially in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. He added that the state government depends strongly on the genuine and constructive partnership of the World Health Organization towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Governor Uzodinma added that WHO supported the state, with the design and flag-off of the Health Insurance Scheme, which now culminates in the launch of the use of mobile phone technology to pay for and access Health Insurance, the first of its kind in Africa towards   ensuring that people can get quality health services, where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship.

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He restated his commitment to repositioning the entire Health Sector in the State, while requesting WHOs renewed partnership in “PHC revitalization, full implementation of the State Health Insurance scheme to provide access to essential Healthcare to Imo citizens at primary, secondary and tertiary levels of care, revamping of our Health Security, Emergency preparedness and response, and overhaul of the drug revolving scheme to eliminate the issue of fake or substandard drugs in our hospitals.”

Speaking at the event, the WHO Nigeria Representative,  Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo appreciated the government of Imo State for placing the health of her people high on overall agenda of government. While recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the vulnerabilities of the global health systems, he pledged WHO’s continuous support within the 13 General Program of work and the State Health Strategic Development Plan.

Dr Mulmbo said that WHO recognizes the peculiar needs of each population from others and thus, makes deliberate efforts to fashion out the health system that works for them based on their needs.

He appreciated the level of political commitment to health in the State and expressed confidence that if sustained, the State and WHO will together promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.

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WHO already supported the State with core health financing analytics with development and printing of the State Health Financing Policy and Strategy, operational guidelines of the State Health Insurance Scheme key operational documents for the State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, as well as laptop computers, some of which were presented during the event.

The high point of the event was the conferment of the title of “Oche Ndu 1 (protector and preserver of life) of Imo State” on Dr. Kazadi on behalf of WHO, by the Chairman of Imo State Traditional Rulers, in recognition of all the lives that have been saved through the humanitarian work done by WHO in the State.

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