Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Guide to managing oral HPV, throat cancer


Today, many people ignorantly suffer from a form of throat cancer that has been linked to HPV (human papilloma virus), a sexually transmitted disease. It is important to know that those infected by HPV live it with for many years without any symptoms. Infections can come and go completely undetected, frequently disappearing without any treatment. It has been documented to take as long as 15 years from infection to cancer in some people. 

There are different types of HPV. One of the basic HPV classifications is the risk of cancer. HPV can be classified as low-risk or high-risk. HPV can cause many different types of cancer, including cervical and other genital cancers like vulvar, vaginal and penile cancer; oral cancers (including throat, mouth and tonsillar cancer); colorectal and anal cancers; even bladder cancer. Commenting on the September 2013 issue of the journal Oral Oncology, authors including; Fakhry and D’Souza identified some interesting statistics about HPV in mouth and throat cancers. The percentage of mouth and throat cancers caused by HPV is rising sharply, from only 16 per cent in the 1980s to approximately 73 per cent of the mouth and throat cancers in the year 2000. The incidence of mouth and throat cancers is rising as well. From 1988 to 2004, there was a 28 per cent increase in the risk of mouth and throat cancers, primarily in men aged from 50 to 59. Some good news here is that HPV-positive cancers tend to be more responsive to treatment. Also, experts have recommended important guide in the management of HPV. Prevent HPV-related cancers with regular screenings, proper protection, and immune-system support. 

A pap smear can help to screen for the presence of cervical cancer and for the presence of cervical HPV. If you do not know if you are currently being screened for HPV with your pap smear, be sure to ask your practitioner. When you get your HPV test, make sure it screens for high-risk types. Some of the HPV types that put you at the highest risk of cancer are types 16, 18 and 45. Condoms and dental dams have been shown to decrease the transmission of HPV. Looking to the future, therapeutic vaccines will treat HPV once you are already infected, but these are not currently available. Since 2006, two preventative vaccines for HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 have been available. It has been shown that these vaccines can actually protect against cervical cancer, and scientists speculate that the vaccine may help to prevent other cancers as well. The vaccine is for prevention only. It won’t work on those already infected. Candidates for the vaccine must be between nine and 26 years. 

The decision to vaccinate yourself or your child should be made after thoroughly weighing the risks and benefits. A new August 2013 study, published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, showed that poor oral health is associated with higher risk of oral HPV infection. It is important to use good oral-hygiene techniques, like thorough brushing and flossing to decrease your likelihood of having an oral HPV infection. Factors that will make an HPV infection more likely to turn to cancer include smoking, chewing tobacco, heavy alcohol use and a compromised immune system. People with HIV are much more likely to have HPV-related cancers than non-HIV infected individuals. 

A March 2013 study in the journal Nutrition and Cancer showed that transient HPV infections can be reduced by consuming a high amount of certain foods, including whole fruits and vegetables, nuts and fish. Low intake of fruits and vegetables were associated with a three-fold risk of advanced pre-cancer of the cervix. Remember, there’s a high probability that if you have been sexually active, you have or have had HPV, the sexually transmitted disease. Get screened, prevent transmission of the virus with barrier protection, support your immune system and consider vaccinations for your children or if you are in the appropriate age range.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 12,  2013.

Walking lowers breast cancer risk

By: Chioma Umeha

A new research said Tuesday, said that walking can help to cut women’s risk of breast cancer. The study suggested that post-menopausal women who walk for an hour daily can reduce their chance of breast cancer significantly. The report, which followed 73,000 women for 17 years, discovered that walking for at least seven hours a week lowered the risk of the disease. The American Cancer Society team said in an agency report that this was the first time reduced risk was specifically linked to walking. 

UK experts said it was more evidence that lifestyle influenced cancer risk. A recent poll for the charity Ramblers found a quarter of adults walk for no more than an hour a week – but being active is known to reduce the risk of a number of cancers. This study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention followed 73,615 women out of 97,785 aged from 50 to 74 who had been recruited by the American Cancer Society between 1992 and 1993 so it could monitor the incidence of cancer in the group. They were asked to complete questionnaires on their health and on how much time they were active and participating in activities such as walking, swimming and aerobics and how much time they spent sitting watching television or reading. 

They completed the same questionnaires at two-year intervals between 1997 and 2009. Of the women, 47 per cent said walking was their only recreational activity. Those who walked for at least seven hours per week had a 14 per cent lower risk of breast cancer compared to those who walked three or fewer hours per week. Dr Alpa Patel, a senior epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta Georgia, who led the study, said: “Given that more than 60 per cent of women report some daily walking, promoting walking as a healthy leisure-time activity could be an effective strategy for increasing physical activity amongst post-menopausal women. “We were pleased to find that without any other recreational activity, just walking one hour a day was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer in these women. 

“More strenuous and longer activities lowered the risk even more,” Patel said. Commenting, Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, said: “This study adds further evidence that our lifestyle choices can play a part in influencing the risk of breast cancer and even small changes incorporated into our normal day-to-day activity can make a difference. She added: “We know that the best weapon to overcoming breast cancer is the ability to stop it occurring in the first place.The challenge now is how we turn these findings into action and identify other sustainable lifestyle changes that will help us prevent breast cancer.”

This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 10,  2013.

HIV: Why Nigeria’s plan to eliminate infant transmission may fail

By: Chioma Umeha

It was 7.00am, when my phone rang. I picked the phone without checking the caller. Peace is dead! Peace is dead! So I heard, but the voice could not be mistaken. It was that of Adanne (surname withheld) my cousin. As she sobbed profusely, I also heard noise at the background, perhaps neighbours trying to console her. ‘Its okay, I’m coming tomorrow,’ I told Ada as we fondly called her. My plea through the phone conversation appeared to have fallen on deaf ears. This made me more confused. So, I quickly rushed to Owerri, Imo state, her residence the next day. 

I was apparently bewildered at the story that later unfolded. Adanne, aged 30, happily tied the nuptial knot December 5, 2009, to her heartthrob, Emeka. I was at her wedding. She was further overjoyed to become pregnant few months after. But her joy was punctuated a month after delivery, as her baby, Peace, often appeared sickly. Mistaken the symptoms to be for cold, the nearest health centre provided appropriate treatment. Peace appearance remained sickly, even as symptoms persisted. Three months later, she was admitted in the General hospital for thorough examination. A comprehensive diagnosis in the hospital’s laboratory eventually showed that Peace was HIV positive. Her HIV status led to further developments. The couple were forced to do HIV test to know their status.  Adanne was HIV positive, while her husband was negative. Since there was no access to Antiretrovirals (ARVs) therapy treatment, the baby succumbed to AIDS and died at six months. Adanne is simply an example of hundreds of Nigerian women who transmit HIV virus to their babies unknowingly before birth. 

That is why HIV test is compulsory for expectant mothers. Diana’s story is not completely different. This is because she refused to pass through the compulsory HIV test among other tests before pregnancy based on religious reasons. She said: “It is a sign of unbelief and sin against God to undergo HIV test.” However, her baby became ill two weeks after delivery. The sick baby was diagnosed of low blood. Diana who has the same genotype and blood group as her baby was asked to donate for her baby. Her blood sample which was tested prior to transfusion on her baby showed HIV positive. Her baby also tested HIV positive, though her husband was HIV negative. The hospital did not have Antiretrovirals (ARVs) therapy treatment for her baby, so she died three months later. Globally, almost 3.4 million children are already living with HIV. Only 23 per cent of them have access to treatment, while 51 per cent of adults do. Statistics also show that no fewer than 1.5 million children are orphaned yearly by HIV in the country. 

Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NPHDA, Dr. Ado Mohammad, told journalists recently, at a week-long Integrated Service Delivery Training for community health workers, organized by the Programme for HIV/AIDS Integration and Decentralization ( PHAID) in Makurdi. Dr. Mohammad said: “HIV/AIDS continues to be a major burden in our country, with well over 1.5million children orphaned annually by the virus which also claims over 300,000 Nigerian lives yearly. “The devastation and dangers posed by the virus in our country calls for concerted effort by all Nigerians, including health workers, to ensure that we drive down the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria.” There are fears that the target of the ‘Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping Their Mothers Alive’ will not be met. 

Over two years ago, World leaders gathered in New York in June for the 2011 United Nations High Level Meeting on AIDS. At the meeting they launched the ‘Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping Their Mothers Alive.’ The meeting provided a platform for a country-led movement towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive. The Global Plan was developed through a consultative process by a high level Global Task Team convened by UNAIDS and co-chaired by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé and United States Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby. It brought together 25 countries and 30 civil society, private sector, networks of people living with HIV and international organizations to chart a roadmap to achieve the goal of the Global Plan by 2015. The goal of the Global Plan is to move towards eliminating new HIV infections among children and keep their mothers alive. One of the two ‘Global Targets’ in the plan is to reduce the number of new childhood HIV infections by 90 per cent. 


Recent reports confirmed that childhood HIV infection rates are still high. Barely two and half years to the deadline ‘A progress report on the Global Plan’ said: “It remains an urgent imperative to reach all of these children with life-saving treatment.”  Concerned about the situation, the report recently declared a state of public health emergency to save lives of children. The report titled “The 2013 Progress Report on the Global Plan towards the Elimination of New HIV Infections among Children by 2015 and Keeping their Mothers Alive,” noted that Nigeria is on top of the list of countries where HIV infection is dropping slowly. “The world’s most populous black country lags behind five other African countries – Lesotho, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad and Angola – all classified as countries with slow declining HIV infection rates,” the report said. 

The UN said it was worried about the prevalence rate of HIV among Nigerian children. The global body warned that if Nigeria does not sit up in curbing HIV in children, the global target, part of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, will not be realised by 2015. “Without urgent action in Nigeria, the global target for 2015 is unlikely to be reached,” the report stated. Also, while Nigeria witnessed stagnancy, since 2009, in the prevalence of HIV among children, several other Sub Saharan African countries, witnessed a massive reduction in the prevalence rate of the condition. For instance is Botswana, which had the most rapid decline of HIV infection. This was followed by Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia, which all witnessed 50 per cent decline in new HIV infections in children. Two more countries- the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe- are very close to achieving this target; prompting the UN to warn Nigeria to sit up in the fight against HIV in children. 

Nigeria’s comparatively poor performance in reducing HIV transmission among children also reflected among the 21 countries under the Global Plan watch of the UN, according to the report. “Nigeria accounts for one third of all new HIV infections among children in the 21 priority countries in sub-Saharan Africa: the largest number of any country. Progress here is therefore critical to eliminating new HIV infections among children globally.” The report further said that the number of HIV infections among children aged between 0 and 14 and women aged from 18 to 49 is dropping very slowly in Nigeria. Giving the breakdown from a data sourced from the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank, the report stated that childhood HIV infection rates  dropped by just eight per cent from 65,000 in 2009 to 60,000 in 2012. Further, only one in 10 or 12 per cent (260,000) of children with the condition were entitled to antiretroviral therapy in 2012, compared to eight per cent in 2009. Since three years, the number of children that have assessed antiretroviral therapy increased by only four per cent. Data from the report also showed that the number of women of child-bearing age (from age 15 to 49) acquiring HIV infection has not changed substantially since 2009. 

The number dropped marginally in four years from 120,000 to 110,000. Worse still, only 20 percent of pregnant women living with the condition are receiving antiretroviral medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV The report noted: “nearly all indicators assessed show stagnation and suggest that Nigeria is facing significant hurdles. It added: “the 21 countries (those under the Global Plan watch) had 210,000 newly infected children in 2012. This represents a reduction of 130,000 new infections annually or 38 per cent drop from 2009 when these countries had 340,000 new HIV infections among children”. However, it is cheering to note that the report commended efforts by the Nigerian government in checking the spread of the disease. 

For instance, the country has already taken a bold step to focus on the 12+1 states with the highest burden of HIV, which account for about 70 per cent of new HIV infections. To achieve the elimination of new infections in children with equity, the global plan recognises that there is need to focus on 22 countries where 88 per cent of the world’s pregnant women live with HIV. The same countries are also home to approximately 90 per cent of children under 15 years of age in need of antiretroviral therapy. The next, is provision of support to countries with low prevalence and concentrated epidemics to reach women and children less likely to access PMTCT services due to geography, wealth and stigma and discrimination. It further suggested provision of high quality treatment for all infants, children and adolescents living with HIV to address the current global inequity in treatment access relative to adults. 

Experts emphasise that new drugs and laboratory technologies that will enable simplified treatment to be provided are critical to decentralizing treatment to mother-child health clinics in remote and underserved areas. But, available records show that efforts to ensure availability of new drugs and laboratory technologies have remained a mirage in Nigeria. Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) is an intervention that provides drugs, counselling and psychological support to help mothers safeguard their infants against HIV. Over 90 per cent of infections in children are acquired through MTCT. MTCT is the term used for vertical transmission of HIV from an infected mother to her newborn. With over 60 per cent of adults living with HIV being women, the number of infected children has been growing. This, experts say, occur during pregnancy, labour and delivery or during breast-feeding. 

In the absence of interventions, the risk of such transmission is worse- 45 per cent. A member on the National Task Team on PMTCT, Emmanuel Enabulele, recently said in an interview that MTCT is fast becoming a burden in Nigeria compared to the rest of the world due to high prevalence of HIV in women of reproductive age and high total fertility rate. Enabulele further attributed the high prevalence of MTCT to characteristically prolonged breastfeeding culture, stigmatization by healthcare givers and poor access to PMTCT interventions as a result of the Federal Government not living up to its promises among others. Enabulele stressed the need for the Nigerian government at all levels to increase funding and strengthen capacity building, improving co-ordination and integral Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) programmes. 

Nigeria launched PMTCT scale-up plan in 2010 to reduce the PMTCT burden. However, experts have expressed fears that Nigeria may not meet the 2015 target for PMTCT. The national PMTCT Programme goal is to contribute to improved maternal health and child survival through accelerated provision of comprehensive PMTCT services. Specifically, the national PMTCT scale-up plan is to provide access to at least 90 per cent of all pregnant women to quality HIV counselling and testing by 2015. Also, it is expected to provide more efficacious ARV prophylaxis to at least 90 per cent of HIV positive pregnant women and HIV exposed infants by 2015. Prophylaxis is the prevention of, or protection against disease. For instance, if women are routinely given anti-malarial tablets in pregnancy to prevent, rather than treat, malaria, it is called malaria prophylaxis. It is also supposed to ensure that at least 90 per cent of pregnant women requiring ART for their own health receive life-long ART. Antiretrovirals (ARVs) are drugs that fight the HIV virus. ARV therapy, otherwise known as ART can help people with HIV stay healthy. 

Short courses of treatment (using a single drug, known as monotherapy) can be given to women in the late stage of pregnancy and/or during labour and delivery, in order to reduce the risk of passing HIV to the baby. Sometimes drugs are also given to the baby in the first week of life. This short course treatment will not be of any benefit to the mother’s own health, but will not harm it. Commenting on the case of Adanne and Diana, Dr. Dan Onwujekwe, Chief Research Fellow, Clinical Sciences Division, Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) explained that their babies would not have been infected by the virus if they passed through the compulsory HIV test to know their status and placed on ARV therapy. Onwujekwe who spoke in an interview, further insisted that both mothers and their babies would not have had any health complications if they were placed on ARV therapy that can help people with HIV stay healthy. He noted: “the short courses of treatment (using a single drug, known as monotherapy) can be given to women in the late stage of pregnancy and/or during labour and delivery, in order to reduce the risk of passing HIV to the baby.” The rest of the details of the national PMTCT scale-up plan include; provision of quality infant feeding counseling HIV positive pregnant women and early infant diagnosis services to HIV exposed infants by 2015. 

Experts have lamented that actualisation of the national PMTCT scale-up plan may end as a fantasy in view of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. First, the PMTCT programme coverage is still very limited in Nigeria. Available data shows that less than 10 per cent of antenatal facilities offer PMTCT services, just as there are indications that the country’s plan in scaling up PMTCT programmes to reach every pregnant woman and baby across might be far-fetched. Corroborating earlier views, Dr Oliver Ezechi, of the Clinical Sciences Division, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba Lagos, in an interview bemoaned that PMTCT coverage still remains low with only 1,120,178 (16.9 per cent) pregnant women counselled, tested for HIV and received their results in 2011. Ezechi also said that 17.6 per cent of the HIV-infected pregnant women in 2011 received antiretroviral. This is even as integration of HIV care, treatment and support for women found to be positive and their families is still a far-cry based on current trends. 

Ezechi, who is also a gynaecologist, underscored the importance of care and support of people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS including; Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC). According to him, the target is to create an enabling environment for the legal protection of OVC by 2015 The Clinical Researcher identified two major challenges of achieving national PMTCT plans to include fear and stigma. His said: “Fear drives the epidemic underground’ adding, ‘delay in seeking care, increased transmission, non-adherence to treatment and non-disclosure are major challenges.” Referring to Nelson Mandela’s statement at the X1V International AIDS Conference 2002, Ezechi said: “Stigma, discrimination and ostracism are the real killers.” He further observed that it is for these listed reasons and more that the likes of Adanne and Diana decline from undergoing HIV test, while others will not want to divulge their status. 

Also, in her paper titled: Update on Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (eMTCT) Nigeria, Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, Deputy Director, Prevention, HIV/AIDS Division, Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) confirmed that 50 per cent of new infections are in children with 90 per cent arising from mother-to-child transmission. Anyaike also lamented the eMTCT is facing challenges. She identified some of the challenges to include weak monitoring and evaluation system and referral system and poor retention of clients; political commitment and funding at state and local government area (LGA) level among others issues.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 10,  2013.

NAFDAC mops up unregistered products in circulation

BY: CHIOMA UMEHA

In a renewed vigour aimed at strengthening consumer’s confidence in their choice of regulated products in the country, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has embarked on a massive raid and enforcement operations of major supermarkets, open markets and suspected warehouses in the Lagos area. 

The exercise spearheaded by the Enforcement Directorate of the Agency and led by one Mrs. Ijeoma Nzeaka, a Chief Regulatory Officer, took the team to the popular Oke-Arin, Balogun, Idumota, Mushin and Oshodi markets, Trade Fair Complex stalls  as well as major supermarkets located in Apapa, Victoria Island, Ikoyi, Ajah and their environs. Apart from the markets, some suspected warehouses in Isolo, Badagry expressway and motor garages and loading parks were also visited. 

During the exercise, products of various ranges worth over N50 million were confiscated with the warehouses sealed and three trailers suspected to be loaded with unregistered regulated products were equally impounded. The three-day exercise which took most of the shop owners by surprise coupled with the presence of journalist and stern looking security operatives was a huge success. Commenting on the exercise in a brief chat with journalists in his office, the Director, Enforcement Directorate of the Agency, Mr. Garba Macdonald explained that it was part of NAFDAC’s routine activity to visit markets, to ascertain the level of compliance of the products in circulation. 

However, he said that it was imperative to storm the locations in the fashion his officers did because the surveillance earlier carried out which indicted the places visited. Mr. Garba further confirmed that the products confiscated would be subjected to further laboratory analysis before final decision could be taken. On the fate of those arrested during the exercise, he said that they would be interrogated to help the agency unravel the sources of the suspected products into the country. 

According to him, “field reports indicated that most of the products were smuggled into the country from the neighbouring countries and those arrested or invited will be of help to furnish us with useful information that will assist to forestall future occurrence.” The Director who was full of appreciation for his officers for the successful operation also praised Nigerians for the cooperation they have continued to give to NAFDAC through the provision of information of suspected locations of illegal activities on NAFDAC’s regulated products.

He therefore promised that with the Lagos experience, the exercise would be extended to every nook and crannies of the country,  just as he warned that those caught on the wrong side of the law would not be spared.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 10,  2013.

Autism linked with poor sleep in children

By: Chioma Umeha


Children with autism may sleep less each night due to disturbed sleep than those without the condition, according to a new study. Researchers from the U.K. and Canada found that starting at around age two until 11, children with autism tended to sleep 17 to 43 fewer minutes each night than their peers without autism. Researchers said the decreased sleep was due to periods of wakefulness during the night.

Photo:L-r:  Dr. Osi Akpene, Mrs. ChiddyIbiam,
Barr.{Mrs.} Helen Mbakwe, President of foundation,Hajiah Umah Sehu and
Mrs. Emily Ajisebutu at the conference organized by  Keera Autism Foundation,
held recently at Lekki,  to create awareness and empowerment for the
people living with autism.
While the discrepancy in sleep shrank when children reached their teens, researchers found that teens with autism did still tend to get about 20 fewer minutes each night than those without the condition. The study, published in the journal, Archives of Disease in Childhood, is based on data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, which includes more than 14,000 children born in southwest England between 1991 and 1992. For this particular study, researchers used data from 7,043 children without autism and 39 children with autism (these study participants had complete data available to researchers).

Parents were quizzed about their child’s sleep habits when they were six, 18, 30, 42, 69, 115 and 140 months old (or from six months to 11 years), and were asked questions about what time their children went to bed, woke up and slept during the day. While the study only showed an association, researchers noted that the findings do suggest there is some sort of “shared neuropathological basis” between autism and biological clock disturbances.

“There are increasing biochemical and genetic data to support the existence of fundamental disturbances in circadian melatonin production in some children with autism, which may partly explain these findings,” they wrote in the study. “Children with ASD are reported to have reduced levels of circulating melatonin and disrupted circadian rhythms, and links have been identified between genes involved in melatonin synthesis and ASD, which could help explain the disturbed sleep patterns observed in children with ASD.”


This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 5,  2013.

Board sets global target for polio eradication

By: Chioma Umeha (Health Editor) and Baba Negedu

The Polio Oversight Board (POB) has reaffirmed its commitment towards supporting governments and national authorities to implement the five year programme of Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan, aimed at realizing the health benefits of polio eradication worldwide. The programme of Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan began this year and will run till 2018. 


A statement from the heads of agencies of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) members of POB, after its review meeting in New York and made available to Saturday Newswatch in Kaduna said: “We met to review progress on commitments made last year to an emergency approach to complete polio eradication by 2018. We assessed the impact of those commitments, and noted the progress made against the Strategic Plan in the face of serious challenges”. According to them, “the GPEIs top priority remains interrupting polio transmission in endemic countries, and success is now largely dependent on eliminating the virus in relatively small geographic areas of Pakistan and Nigeria. 

The board, further said: “We are encouraged that polio cases are down 45 percent in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan from this point last year. Afghanistan has had the most striking decline, down more than 80 per cent compared to last year, and has recorded just four cases this year. “We heard from health ministers from Pakistan and Nigeria about critical actions being taken to address continuing transmission in their countries, including, establishing access to those few remaining areas where children have not received the polio vaccine,” they added. The board said: “Threats of violence against the heroic women and men who deliver polio vaccines remain a serious concern and we discussed the GPEI partner agencies and country governments’ responses to the distinct challenges of reaching children in insecure areas, including building trust in high-risk areas by expanding health services and engaging local and religious leaders. The board expressing optimism said: 

“We remain hopeful that the global programme is closing in on the elimination of one of the last two remaining types of wild poliovirus (type 3), which has not been detected anywhere in the world in more than 10 months. The upcoming low transmission season (November to April) in countries currently affected by polio transmission will be crucial, and we agreed that endemic country plans could be further refined to capitalize on this unprecedented opportunity”, they said. “The outbreak in the Horn of Africa, where more than 190 cases have been reported following importation of the virus earlier this year, and the recent detection of poliovirus in sewage samples in Israel are grave reminders of the ongoing risks to previously polio-free areas of the world if we do not complete eradication, the group lamented. 

They concluded: “We reviewed measures underway to quickly halt these outbreaks to prevent further spread, and we will evaluate progress and areas of risk again in two months. We also examined the ongoing transmission of poliovirus in Israel following an importation into that country, and discussed the measures being taken to interrupt that transmission and prevent polio cases in Israel and surrounding countries.”

This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 5,  2013.

Africa has the highest number of hungry people – UN

By: Chioma Umeha

Majority of people suffering hunger live in developing countries, where the prevalence of undernourishment is estimated at 14.3 per cent, the United Nations’ (UN) food agencies said on Tuesday. Of the 842 million hungry people in the world, 827 million live in Africa, the UN agencies said. Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with more than one in five people estimated to be undernourished, while most of the undernourished people are in southern Asia. 

One in eight people around the world is chronically undernourished, the agencies also said, warning world leaders that some regions would fail in halving the number of hungry by 2015. In their latest report on food insecurity, the UN agencies estimated that there are 842 million people have been suffering from chronic hunger since 2011 till date that is 12 per cent of the world’s population, down 17 percent from 1990 to 1992. The new figure was lower than the last estimate of 868 million from 2010 to 2012 and 1.02 billion in 2009, but the report said progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goal to halve the prevalence of hunger in the world by 2015 was uneven. 

Many countries were unlikely to meet the goal adopted by world leaders at the United Nations in 2000, said the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). “Those (countries) that have experienced conflict during the past two decades are more likely to have seen significant setbacks in reducing hunger,” the report said. “Landlocked countries face persistent challenges in accessing world markets, while countries with poor infrastructure and weak institutions face additional constraints.” FAO, WFP and IFAD define undernourishment, or hunger, in the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2013 report as “not having enough food for an active and healthy life” and an inability to “meet dietary energy requirements”. Policies aimed at boosting agricultural productivity and food availability were crucial in reducing hunger even where poverty was widespread, the agencies said. 

“When they are combined with social protection and other measures that increase the incomes of poor families to buy food, they can have an even more positive (effect) and spur rural development,” they said. Remittances, three times larger than official development assistance, have had a significant impact on food security by leading to better diets and reduced hunger, they said.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 3,  2013.

Role of pharmacists isn’t only dispense of medicines – Akintayo

By: CHIOMA UMEHA 

Olumide Akintayo is the National President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN).  In this interview Akintayo speaks on World Pharmacists Day and the role of pharmacy in simplifying the use of medicines for patients’ benefit. CHIOMA UMEHA (HEALTH EDITOR) provided the details. 

Excerpts: 

Majority of people suffering hunger live in developing countries, where the prevalence of undernourishment is estimated at 14.3 per cent, the United Nations’ (UN) food agencies said on Tuesday. Of the 842 million hungry people in the world, 827 million live in Africa, the UN agencies said. Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with more than one in five people estimated to be undernourished, while most of the undernourished people are in southern Asia. 

One in eight people around the world is chronically undernourished, the agencies also said, warning world leaders that some regions would fail in halving the number of hungry by 2015. In their latest report on food insecurity, the UN agencies estimated that there are 842 million people have been suffering from chronic hunger since 2011 till date that is 12 per cent of the world’s population, down 17 percent from 1990 to 1992. 

Olumide Akintayo, National President of
Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN)
The new figure was lower than the last estimate of 868 million from 2010 to 2012 and 1.02 billion in 2009, but the report said progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goal to halve the prevalence of hunger in the world by 2015 was uneven. Many countries were unlikely to meet the goal adopted by world leaders at the United Nations in 2000, said the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). 

“Those (countries) that have experienced conflict during the past two decades are more likely to have seen significant setbacks in reducing hunger,” the report said. “Landlocked countries face persistent challenges in accessing world markets, while countries with poor infrastructure and weak institutions face additional constraints.” FAO, WFP and IFAD define undernourishment, or hunger, in the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2013 report as “not having enough food for an active and healthy life” and an inability to “meet dietary energy requirements”. 

Policies aimed at boosting agricultural productivity and food availability were crucial in reducing hunger even where poverty was widespread, the agencies said. “When they are combined with social protection and other measures that increase the incomes of poor families to buy food, they can have an even more positive (effect) and spur rural development,” they said. Remittances, three times larger than official development assistance, have had a significant impact on food security by leading to better diets and reduced hunger, they said.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 3,  2013.

Africa has highest proportion of undiagnosed diabetes

By: CHIOMA UMEHA

Africa has highest proportion of undiagnosed diabetes A study by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) published in the World Diabetes Atlas Africa has said that the Africa continent highest proportion of undiagnosed diabetes which is about 78 per cent. It said Sub-Saharan Africa has more than 15 million of the 371 million people living with diabetes in the world. 

It said an estimated 344,000 deaths in the region could be attributed to diabetes, which represents 6.1 per cent of deaths from all causes. The study which was contained in  news agency report weekend, revealed that investment, research, and health systems are slow to respond to this burden and remain focused primarily on infectious diseases. It said the region accounts for less than one per cent of global healthcare expenditures due to diabetes. It said estimates for the Africa region indicate that at least $2.8 billion was spent on healthcare due to diabetes in 2011; this expenditure due to diabetes is expected to rise by 61 per cent by 2030, whereas the prevalence of diabetes is projected to almost double in the same time period. “Health in sub-Saharan Africa has been traditionally dominated by infectious disease, HIV/AIDS, and poverty. 

“With rapid urbanization, non-communicable diseases like diabetes are quickly becoming a new priority for health in the Region. “Indeed, age-specific prevalence estimates of diabetes in African urban centres often meet or exceed those found in high-income countries,” the study said. It said as urbanization increases and the population ages, diabetes would pose an even greater threat. According to the study in 2011, 14.7 million adults in the Africa Region were estimated to have diabetes, with a regional prevalence of 3.8 per cent. It said the range of prevalence figures between countries reflects the rapid transition communities in the region were facing. “The highest prevalence of diabetes in the Africa Region is in the island of Réunion (16.3 per cent), followed by Seychelles (12.4 per cent), Botswana (11.1 per cent) and Gabon (10.6 per cent). 

“Some of Africa’s most populous countries also have the highest number of people with diabetes, with Nigeria having the largest number (3.0 million), followed by South Africa (1.9 million), Ethiopia (1.4 million), and Kenya (769,000). “The top six countries with the highest number of people with diabetes make up just over half of the total number in the Region. “Children in the Region with type 1diabetes often go undiagnosed, even if diagnosed, few have sufficient access to insulin, syringes, and monitoring equipment and die as a result,” it said. The study said people with diabetes have an increased risk of developing a number of serious health problems; consistently high blood glucose levels could lead to serious diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. 

It said all nations are suffering the impact of the diabetes epidemic, it particularly affects those who are socially and economically disadvantaged and it also threatens achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The IDF is an umbrella organization of over 200 national diabetes associations in more than 160 countries. It represents the interests of the growing number of people with diabetes and those at risk.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 12,  2013.

Nestlé seeks physical, health development of children

By: Chioma Umeha

*The kid athletes with top Nigerian athletes Falilat Ogunkoya-Omotayo and Yussuf Alli during the Nestlé/IAAF Kids Athletics Activation in Ikeja, Lagos…yesterday, in Photo


Nestlé Nigeria Plc, the beverage company has called for positive physical, health and social skills development of school-age-children by engaging them in sporting activities, apart from enhancing their qualities as future athletes Making the call was Dr Samuel Adenekan, Manager Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, Nestlé, who explained that the company was the main sponsor of the just concluded International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) Kids Athletics programme. 

According to him, supporting the just concluded International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) Kids Athletics programme, which is one of the biggest grassroots development programmes in the world of sports, was part of Nestle’s commitment to nutrition and health. A statement at the weekend, signed by Adenekan, said: “The initiative aims to encourage school-age-children to develop positive physical, health and social skills by engaging in sporting activities while, at the same time, enhancing the development of future athletes.” Penultimate Thursday, thousands of Nigerian primary school pupils became the first beneficiaries of the progamme in Central and West Africa, which signaled a landmark investment in sports development, nutrition education and physical activity towards better health in the most populous African nation. The programme, which is expected to reach over 200,000 primary school pupils in the country began last month and continue till September 2014. 

The last edition featured competitive athletic events among primary schools from Ibadan, Ilorin, Owerri, Kano, Asaba and Gombe. The event which took place at the Opebi Model Primary School in Lagos was attended by more than 400 school kids, federal and state sports officials, as well as a former national sports icon, Yussuf Ali, who has held the national record in long jump since the 1980s. Nestlé is also providing financial support for IAAF to train athletics coaches and lecturers with the aim of eventually reaching a larger number of children in existing or new markets. Nestlé’s support for Kids’ Athletics complements the Nestlé Healthy Kids Global Programme launched in Nigeria in 2011 and reaches more than 15,000 children in Lagos, Ogun and Oyo states between six and 12 years old. The programme is being implemented in partnership with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), which has been promoting the development of athletics in schools. 

Managing Director of Nestlé Nigeria, Dharnesh Gordhon stated: “Nestlé is pleased to provide financial support for the further development of IAAF Kids’ Athletics programme”. He added: “Beyond supporting IAAF’s Kids Athletics programme, we believe that this partnership will further enhance Nestlé Healthy Kids Global Programme and improve the Nutrition, Health and Wellness of school-age-children”. President of AFN, Solomon Ogba, said Nestlé’s expertise in nutrition and health will not only help promote a balanced and healthy lifestyle for children, but also augment development of athletics in the country. President of the Nigerian School Sports Federation (NSSF), Mallam Ibrahim Muhammed, said athletics used to be the number one sports in the country and it was a symbol of dignity among students to be one’s school athlete. 

He was hopeful that the Nestlé/ IAAF will bring back the “run” experience to our schools and the upbringing of a total healthy kid. “It is our belief that this project will encourage the average child to run jump, hop, throw, clap and smile,” Muhammed said. Subsequent to the Nigerian launch, the programme is expected to be rolled out in other countries in Central and West Africa with Ghana being the next.


This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 10,  2013.

Child Protection Network condemns Senate proposal on marriage

By: CHIOMA UMEHA

The Child Protection Network(CPN) a coalition of n o n – governmental Organisations (NGOs) Civil Society Organisations (CBOs) and Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) and government agencies in 31 States and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) working in the area of Child Protection in the country have decried the removal of Section 29(4) (a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the retention of Section 29(4) (b), last Wednesday, by lawmakers in the country. 

A statement signed by the various representatives of CPN from the various geopolitical zones and states in the country condemned the Senate’s move. The statement read: “CPN decries in very strong terms the removal of Section 29(4) (a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the retention of Section 29(4) (b) of the same on Wednesday July 17 by the members of the National Assembly.” According to them, the action violates the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. “This action is a complete violation of Article 21(2) of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child which prohibits Child marriage as well as Article 6(b) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights which provides that the maximum age of marriage for women is 18 years,” the statement said. 

The statement further said that Senate’s action contravenes the Child Right Act. It said: “This act of the Senate also contravenes Section 21, 22 and 23 of the Child Right Act which state that no person under the age of 18 is capable of contracting a valid marriage and accordingly a marriage so contracted is null and void and of no effect what so ever.

It is also an aberration to all the International Human Rights legislations for children which Nigeria is a signatory to, had ratified and domesticated.” CPN reading riot act against the Nigerian girl – child called on well-meaning persons in the country to ensure a reversal of the proposal. “This action is generally unacceptable and not in the best interest of the Nigerian girl-child. We urged all right thinking Nigerians to strongly condemn this action and urged members of the house to revert this despicable and shameful action,” the statement said.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 9,  2013.

WHO releases guidelines on mental health care

Chioma Umeha

The World Health Organisation has released new clinical protocols and guidelines to health care workers for treating the mental health consequences of trauma and loss. Mental disorders are common, disabling and usually untreated, and WHO’s Mental Health Global Action Programme (mhGAP) was developed in 2008 to scale up care for mental, neurological and substance use disorders with simple treatment protocols that could be offered by primary health care doctors and nurses. 


The clinical protocol and guidelines which was made available to the Ghana News Agency by Fadéla Chaib, WHO Spokesperson noted that the body is now extending the programme by including care for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), acute stress and bereavement within its global plan. It said traumatic events and loss are common in people’s lives; in a previous WHO study of 21 countries, more than 10 per cent of respondents reported witnessing violence (21.8 per cent) or experiencing interpersonal violence (18.8 per cent), accidents (17.7 per cent), exposure to war (16.2 per cent) or trauma to a loved one (12.5 per cent). It said an estimated 3.6 per cent of the world population has suffered from PTSD in the previous year, the study showed. 

“Using the new protocol, which is co-published with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, primary health care workers can offer basic psychosocial support to refugees as well as people exposed to trauma or loss in other situations. “Types of support offered can include psychological first aid, stress management and helping affected people to identify and strengthen positive coping methods and social supports. “In addition, referral for advanced treatments such as cognitive-behavioural therapy or a new technique called eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing should be considered for people suffering from PTSD,” it stated. 

The WHO guidance said these techniques help people reduce vivid, unwanted, repeated recollections of traumatic events and more training and supervision is recommended to make these techniques more widely available. It said primary health care staff are also warned against certain popular treatments; for example, benzodiazepines, which are anti-anxiety drugs. These drugs should not be offered to reduce acute traumatic stress symptoms or sleep problems in the first month after a potentially traumatic event. It said both the mhGAP clinical protocol on Assessment and Management of Conditions Specifically Related to Stress as well as the WHO guidelines underpinning the module are available on their site. “New clinical protocol and guidelines is to enable effective mental health care for adults and children exposed to trauma and loss,” it said.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 10,  2013.

Hepatitis: World health body fight to save 1.4 million lives

By: Chioma Umeha

There is increasing global concern over the rising incidence of hepatitis and its health implications as 1.4 million die yearly from the five hepatitis viruses that cause severe liver infections. Against this background, the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the recent World Hepatitis Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged governments to act against the five hepatitis viruses that cause severe liver infections and lead to over 1.4 million deaths each year. 

The complexity of hepatitis disease lies in the existence of different types of viruses. The director Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases of the world health body, Dr Sylvie Briand, said Hepatitis A and E are food borne and waterborne infections, which cause millions of cases of acute illness every year, sometimes with several months needed for a person to fully recover. Hepatitis B, C, and D are spread by infected body fluids including blood, by sexual contact, mother-to-child transmission during birth or by contaminated medical equipment. Hepatitis B and C have a greater health burden in terms of death because they can cause chronic infection, which can lead to liver cirrhosis (chronic liver disease characterised by replacement of liver tissue) and cancer. Viral hepatitis is ‘silent epidemic’ because most persons do not realise that they are infected and, over decades, slowly progress to liver disease. “The fact that many hepatitis B and C infections are silent, causing no symptoms until there is severe damage to the liver, points to the urgent need for universal access to immunisation, screening, diagnosis and antiviral therapy,” said Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO Assistant Director General for Health Security and the Environment. 

The challenges posed by hepatitis were formally acknowledged by the World Health Assembly in 2010, when it adopted its first resolution on viral hepatitis, and called for a comprehensive approach to prevention and control. WHO has been collaborating closely with countries and partners to build a strong global response and is currently developing new hepatitis C screening, care and treatment guidelines, which will provide recommendations on key areas such as testing approaches; behavioural interventions (alcohol reduction); non-invasive assessment of liver fibrosis; and the selection of hepatitis C drug combinations. “New, more effective medicines to prevent the progression of chronic hepatitis B and C are in the pipeline. However, these will be expensive and therapy will require monitoring with sophisticated laboratory tests. To cure and reduce the spread of these viruses, medicines must become more accessible,” said Dr Stefan Wiktor, Team leader of WHO’s Global Hepatitis Programme. In June 2013, the organisation launched the Global Hepatitis Network with aims of supporting countries with planning and implementation of viral hepatitis plans and programmes. 

WHO-approved vaccines are available to prevent hepatitis A and B, while screening of blood donors, assuring clean needles and syringes, and condom use, can prevent transmission of the disease. Prevention: In a recent WHO report dubbed, ‘Global policy report on the prevention and control of viral hepatitis, Hepatitis B can be prevented by reaching out to every child with immunisation programmes. However, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. In addition, infections can be prevented by protecting against mother-to-child transmission of the virus and ensuring the safety of blood during transfusion services, organ donation and injection practice. Hepatitis A and E can be prevented by avoiding contaminated food and water.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on August 17,  2013.

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