Govt makes five-year plan to stop sleeping sickness, river blindness

By The Citizen

The Federal Government is drawing up a five-year strategic plan for the research, control and eradication of sleeping sickness and river blindness in Nigeria.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Ita Okon Bassey-Ewa, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Rabi Jiimeta, stated this Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the three-day National Conference on Trypanosomiasis And Onchosceeciasis Research, Zoonotic/Public Health Implications, Control And Eradication in Nigeria, organised by the Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis (and onchocerciasis) Research (NITR) Kaduna, which is an agency under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Abuja.

According to the minister, the five-year strategic plan when approved will serve as a guide not only for NITR, but also as a platform for collaboration among stakeholders, ministries and agencies.

He said that the theme of the conference: 'Focusing Research and Development Strategies Towards a Nigeria free of Trypanosomaisis (sleeping sickness, sammore) and Onchocerciasis (river blindness)' is in line with the core objectives of the new National Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy towards the achievement of the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.

He said: 'NITR has its mandate to conduct research and develop appropriate technologies, as well as process for the control and elimination of the trypanosomiasis and onchocerciasis and their vectors. This is a national and a unique mandate to carry out research and development in all aspects of trypanosomiasis and onchocerciasis. This mandate saddles with the important responsibility to serve as a clearing house in terms of research and development in the area of trypanosomiasis and onchocerciasis.  The institute has been carrying out his responsibility over the years responsibly.'

Earlier in his remarks, the Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis (and Onchocerciasis) Research (NITR), Prof. Muhammad Mamman, revealed that despite the efforts being made, the diseases tend to still persist in the country.

'Despite several years of extensive efforts on research and development, vector control and host treatment, trypanosomiasis, onchoccerciasis and their respective vectors persist in Nigeria because the conditions that favour their persistence also persist', he said.

He also emphasised that 'animal trypanosomiasis (Sammore) has remained a permanent disease of our livestock for several decades and causing losses of billions of naira yearly due to decreased productivity and death.'

He further stated that the nation's goal on achieving food security and self-sufficiency in agriculture, sustainable supply of animal protein and milk will remain unfulfilled for many decades to come due to the health and socio-economic effects of these diseases