A professor of Parasitology and Public Health Consultant, Andy Egwunyenga, has identified poor budgetary provision, misplaced priorities and lack of political will as major causes of increased tropical parasitic diseases in Nigeria and the entire African continent.
Egwunyenga stated this in his keynote address at the 46th Annual Conference of the Parasitology and Public Health Society of Nigeria in Abraka, Delta State.
The university don, who is also the Vice Chancellor of Delta State University, expressed concern over the myriad of diseases confronting the Africa over the years.
Egwunyenga, who spoke on the theme of the conference: “POLITICAL WILL TOWARDS DISEASE CONTROL-THE AFRICAN EXPERIENCE,” expressed regret at the lack of political will on the part of African governments to effectively tackle the issues.
The DELSU VC noted that the consequences of parasitic infections are very devastating in terms of human sickness and deaths, as well as agriculture and animal grazing, adding that governments must rise to the challenge.
He underscored the fact that tropical parasites shorten lives, reduce the ability to work or attend school and impose a lifelong burden on Africa’s potential for development.
Egwunyenga further noted that diseases cause mass poverty, high fertility rate, slow economic growth, deforestation, rapid urbanisation and increased migration, wars and natural disasters across the continent.
He stated that they were contributing to increased transmission and distribution of diseases, stating that there must be urgent need in building the political will for effective disease control, to bridge the gap in health financing, priority setting and on how best to improve prevention, monitoring and control of diseases, instead of relying more on foreign aid.
Egwuyenga disclosed that diseases cost African $2.4 trillion annually while nearly 639 million years of healthy life were lost in 2015, adding that the last 20 years has seen the rise of non-communicable disease as the leading cause of death in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The health challenge has been well recognised by African governments resulting in the Abuja Declaration in 2001 and other follow-ups but responses have been mixed with most countries unable to meet the funding target of 15 percent, including Nigeria, with average budget of about 4.7 percent since the past 20 years while the highest is Swaziland with 17 percent,” he stated.
Speaking further, Prof. Egwunyenga viewed Africa’s disease burden with a population of 1.34 billion, to represent 16 percent of the world’s population of 7.9 billion which carries 25 percent of the world’s disease burden.
He revealed that extreme poverty continues to drive increased burden of disease in Africa because of 736 million people who lived on less than $1.90 a day, more than 413 million of them were from sub-Saharan Africa; adding that “Africa share of global health expenditure is less than 1 percent leaving more than half of its population without access to essential health services.”
He expressed worry that deaths from non-communicable diseases,
NCDS, are likely to increase by 17 percent globally over the next 10 years, and African Region will experience a whopping 27 percent increase, which is twenty-eight million additional deaths from conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases (Naik and Kaneda, saying they are projected to exceed the combined deaths due to communicable, maternal, perinatal and nutrition-related diseases.
Prof. Egwunyenga, however, regretted that Nigeria government, compared to other African countries, has failed woefully, in ensuring that 15 percent of its annual budgetary allocation goes towards health, after all.
The parasitologist hinted that political will to sustainably fund health and disease control was weak, noting with emphasis that Politics and Health Financing in Nigeria commitment to adequately fund health and disease control programmes in Nigeria is hampered by the inability of government and politicians, particularly the National Assembly to set the right priorities.
“Aside from other unstated allowances, Nigerian Federal Lawmakers in 2020 allocated to themselves, a total of N268 billion and N463.76 billion to Health.
“An analysis of the budget shows that more than half of all Nigeria planned to spend on health in 2020 (N463.7 billion) went to the National Assembly. This meant that for every N2 spent on Nigerian’s health care, N1 went to the National Assembly. In pitiably same year Nigeria spent N500 billion on medical tourism,” he said.
President of PPSN, Prof. Sammy O Sam-Wobo noted that they were in a near-constant state of improvement and regeneration of existing policies and scientific procedures, and PPSN has the gift of remaining contemporary to her members and their aspirations, as well as the society at large, in advancing the culture of scientific progression to measure up with global curve of rapid scientific novelties in research, prevention and control of parasitic diseases.
He said this year’s conference theme “Political Will Towards Disease Control – The African Experience”, was well chosen considering the present realities in most African countries where parasitic diseases especially Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) still hold sway and the Government going nothing to salvage the situation.
Highlight of the conference was the presentation of a special logo designed by a member as PPSN at 50 official logo to kickstart awareness activities towards celebrating the society in 2023.