Saturday, 25 October 2014

Counterfeit drug: NAFDAC parades 4 more importers

- Impounds N59.3m products

By: Chioma Umeha

National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has reiterated its effort to ensure zero-tolerance to fake drugs with a breakthrough in the arrest and parade of additional four importers of fast moving counterfeit medicines and products, Thursday, in Lagos. 

Announcing what he considered a groundbreaking event during a press briefing, Dr. Paul Orhii, Director General, NAFDAC, said that he is more embarrassed by people dying due to fake drugs than flimsy claims of those described as fake drug abettors on failure of technology in identifying fake products. Parading several counterfeit medicines which the agency seized since the past weeks, Orhii pledged to employ technology and method to stamp out fake drugs and products in the country. The total sum of the counterfeit medicines impounded is N59, 300,000.
Among those who were paraded yesterday, by the agency is Mr. Paul Ogbonna of No. 8 Kujore Street, Ojota, off Ogudu Road, Lagos for sale of countrfeit medicines.

Ogbonna was arrested on the May 17, 2011 for sale of fake Aldomet tablet and Moduretic tablet both are anti-hypertensive drugs used for the treatment of hypertension. At the time of interrogation, Ogbonna claimed not to have a shop and that he purchased the counterfeit medicines from an unknown individual. Investigation was conducted and he was to be arraigned in court on the January 18, early in the year but, he jumped bail and has since been on the run. After extensive intelligence work he was re- arrested, last week, May 25, and will soon be arraigned in court.

The next is Mr. Celestine Eruokwu of No. 77 Mosafejo Street, Suru- Alaba, Lagos who was the arrested for importation of counterfeit Maloxine tablets. Based on an intelligence report that Eruokwu was in possession of counterfeit Maloxine tablets, operatives of NAFDAC Investigation and Enforcement Directorate raided his house at No. 77 Mosafejo Street, Suru-Alaba Lagos. There they discovered and impounded the following counterfeit medicine from him: Maloxine tablet: – (90,000 doses) 600 packets x 150 x Stabs with an estimated market value of nine million naira only. Investigation revealed that Eruokwu is a generator dealer and has a shop located at Idumota in Lagos. He confessed that he imported the product from China and that they are fake. The product has been sampled against him for laboratory analysis.

Recent findings indicate that counterfeiters of medicines now hide under the shadows of other businesses to carry out their nefarious activities, the DG said. He further noted; “the product impounded from Eruokwu amounts to 90,000 doses which could have endangered the lives of ninety thousand patients.”    Also among those paraded was Mr.  Ifeanyi  Edeh of No. 8 Agunlagiha Street,  Ijesha,  Lagos, for  importation of Ciprotab 500 packaging materials.Ifeanyi was arrested by vigilant officers of the agency’s Port Inspection Directorate (PID) at NAHCO shed, cargo section of Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, where he had attempted to smuggle the packaging materials for Ciprotab 500 tablets (an antibiotic). A total of 5,650 units of the packaging materials in a large carton was found in his procession and impounded from him. Upon interrogation he confessed to have imported the packaging materials from China and intended to use them to re-pack counterfeit Ciprotab 500 tablets. “This action would have endangered the lives of more than 5,000 patients, Orhii said.

Another person under NAFDAC net is Mr. Ozoemena Kelvin Odo of No. 3 Bassey Street, Aguda Surulere, Lagos, for importation of various counterfeit medicines concealed with GSM telephone accessories. During routine inspection of imports at NAHCO shed, Muritala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, the NAFDAC staff intercepted some packages of pharmaceutical products declared as mobile phone accessories but also had some counterfeit medicines concealed within, the DG said. The following counterfeit medicines were impounded from Odo :Regretone tablet (Anti-hypertensive) – 30,000 sachets x 10 tablets; Regretone packaging materials -10,000 pieces (with Onye written on the baggage); Postinor 2 tablet ( Contraceptive)-12,000 x 3 x 2 tablets; Postinor 2 packaging material – 20,000 pieces(with Kelechi written on the baggage) and Postinor 2 tablet -12,000 x 2 x 2 tabletsVI.     The rest are  Postinor 2 packaging material:- 20,000 pieces (with Chukwuado written on the baggage)

Also paraded were various  illegal imported packaging materials including; packaging materials for Vermox 5OOmg tablets – 2packages; packaging material for Kenalog 40mg/ml injection (Triamcinone) – 1 large package; packaging material for Vaseline Cocoa Butter – 1 package x Grolls; Scotch Whisky labels – 1 package x 10,000 pieces and packaging material for Q3  Paris Carrot and  Egg yoke whitening body milk, 9 packages. The rest are packaging material for Dettol Antiseptics – 8 packagesand  packaging materials for Camros Blended Scotch Whisky – 7packages. “We have observed that the current trend now is to import packaging materials of popular and fast moving drugs such as antibiotics, injectables and antimalarials with the intention of packaging the fake, the NAFDAC boss said.

He added: “Furthermore, most of those drugs are brought as unaccompanied cargo and concealed as general commodities and it takes the extra effort of our officers to detect them. “Another area of concern is in the importation of donated items especially drug products. We wish to reiterate that donated drugs must have a six months shelf life at the time of arrival in Nigeria,” Orhii said. He insisted, the agency is intensifying surveillance and monitoring activities daily to ensure fake, counterfeit, substandard and unwholesome regulated products do not enter into the country at will.

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on  June 1, 2013.

Int’l Day for Biological Diversity 1.8b people ’ll lack water by 2025 – UN

By: Chioma Umeha

Unless there are increased efforts to reverse current trends, the world will run out of fresh water come 2025, according to the United Nations (UN). The world body stated this on Wednesday, while marking the International Day for Biological Diversity. This year’s theme for the Day is “Water and Bio-diversity,” which corresponds with the UN Designation of 2013 as International Year of Water Cooperation. The Year is being coordinated by UNESCO on behalf of UN-Water. It also called for stronger scientific alliances to understand and protect natural resources.

“We live in an increasingly water insecure world where demand often outstrips supply and where water quality often fails to meet minimum standards.


“Under current trends, future demands for water will not be met. Although seemingly abundant, only a tiny amount of the water on our planet is easily available as freshwater.  “Bio-diversity and the ecosystem services they provide are central to achieving the vision of a water secure world,’’ the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day.

He said that the mutually supporting roles of forests, wetlands and soil bio-diversity. “Integrating nature-based solutions into urban planning can also help us build better water futures for cities where water may be acute given the rapid pace of urbanisation,’’ he added. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) of the total volume of water on Earth, freshwater makes up around 35 million km3, or about 2.5 per cent of the total volume. “Water scarcity affects almost every continent and more than 40 per cent of the people on our planet. “With current trends, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity by 2025, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions,’’ the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said.

“This is an opportunity for us to join efforts to enhance fair and innovative water management arrangements and to share best practises for the preservation of wetlands streams. “Wetlands streams, lakes, coasts and marine zones play a substantial role in ensuring bio-diversity,” the Head of UNESCO, Irina Bokova also said in her message.

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on  25 May, 2013.

Natural ways to improve your breathing

By: Chioma Umeha

Do you suffer from asthma, bronchitis, COPD, lung cancer, emphysema or sleep apnea? There are ways to improve your breathing from experts. When drawing a breath is a challenge, the pulmonary, there is timely information, new research findings from specialists to help you cope with your condition. In this piece, you will discover exciting advances and the most useful, current information to help you prevent or treat conditions affecting your lungs. You also will learn how to prevent these diseases and, when symptoms arise, the best ways for you to work with your doctor to diagnose and treat them. 

Use a humidifier in your bedroom, or place a pan of water by your bed. 

Pan of Water
 Purchase (zip-up) pillow cases that are designed to keep tiny dust mites and bed bugs from causing you problems. 

Keep lots of clean-air plants in your home. 

Breathe through your nose as nose hairs filter air and do so before it enters the body. Breathing through the mouth means that this filtration has to occur in the lungs. 

Vacuum daily: Using your vacuum cleaner daily will help rid your home of dust mites, and will help clean up pet dandruff and fur, if you have pets.  You can try using a dust mask to keep your allergies from acting up and causing poor breathing. 

Wear a facial mask while using strong household cleaning products. These may cause breathing problems. Use antibacterial wipes on computer keyboards, door knobs, etc., especially if you have a sick family member; colds can lead to serious problems. 

Spray perfume below the face and neck area, as far away from your face as you can get. 

Watch out for people that are burning things in the neighbourhood that may possibly contain some type of dangerous chemical; just the smoke alone isn’t good for you.  Keeping your car tuned up; this will help to keep you breathing right.

 This story was published in Daily Newswatch on May 25, 2013.
2013: 17,400 women succumb to maternal deaths


The maternal and child mortality situation in the country has continued to worsen with Nigeria still retaining the second highest global burden of maternal deaths in the world next to India. Dr. Oluwarotimi Ireti Akinola, Chairman, Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics in Nigeria (SOGON), Lagos Sector–in an interview with CHIOMA UMEHA (HEALTH EDITOR) gives an overview of maternal and child mortality reduction programme in the country. Excerpts:

Oluwarotimi Ireti Akinola
Why are pregnancy-related health complications and deaths on the increase?
Pregnancy is not a disease but privileged function entrusted to women. However it has become such a great battle that many have lost their lives in the struggle.  Following the rise on the incidence of pregnancy-related health complications and deaths, Prof Mahmoud Fathalla commended the English term used to describe what women do to give birth to a child as ‘labour.’ Unfortunately this is ‘labour that has never been unionized’ and has therefore suffered neglect.

Many still remember with sadness the plane crash of last year, in which more than 130 people died. If any country has a plane crash which kills 145 passengers daily, which is an equivalent of the estimated daily maternal deaths in Nigeria, there would be serious crisis. It is safe to assume that about 17,400 Nigerian women have died due to pregnancy- related issues this year, from January to April. This is because 145 women die daily due to pregnancy-related reasons in the country. In addition, for every woman who dies, approximately 20 more experience infection, injuries or disability.

Define maternal death?
Maternal death is the death of a woman during pregnancy or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, due to reasons related to pregnancy or its management. This is irrespective of the duration of the pregnancy. Late maternal death is the death of a woman due to direct or indirect obstetric causes, more than 42 days, but less than one year after termination of pregnancy. Despite being caused by pregnancy-related events, these deaths do not count as maternal deaths in routine civil registration systems.

Assess maternal death situation in the country?
Nigeria is home to one out of five Africans, with its population of over 160 million that is estimated to be one per cent of the global population. The country however, accounts for a disproportionate 10 per cent of global maternal deaths. Nigeria presently has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the developing world – accounting for the second highest global burden of maternal deaths in the world next to India. The last National Demographic and Health Survey in 2008 placed the national Maternal mortality Rate at 545 per 100,000 live births ,this is unacceptably high when compared to 350/100,000 and 400/100,000 in Ghana and Benin Republic respectively over the same period of time. This is even as the February 2009 UNICEF report, showed that the figures were under-estimated. The report stirred the hornet’s nest when it updated its earlier estimation of the incidence of maternal mortality in Nigeria from 800 per 100, 000 to 1,100 per 100,000 live births, an indication that the strategies to address the situation were not yielding anticipated results. This created uproar in government circles that warranted the then minister of information and communication issuing a political statement to refute the information.

What is the prenatal mortality situation in the country?
Prenatal mortality tends to follow the same geographical pattern as maternal mortality. 3.3 million still-births occur yearly, while over four million newborns die during the first 28 days of life, even as three million dies during the first seven days. In developing countries, about one third of these deaths are related to prenatal complications responsible for birth asphyxia.

Assess efforts to address maternal and infant mortality problems in the country?
Many acronyms representing programmes have been designed to address maternal and infant mortality issues since the past 20 years in the country. These include: SMI (Safe Motherhood Initiative), MPS (Making Pregnancy Safer), LSS (Life Saving Skills), IMNCH (Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child health) and MSS (Midwife Service Scheme). Others are: EOC (Essential Obstetric Care), EMOC (Emergency Obstetric Care), IMCI (Integrated Management of Childhood Illness) and MDGs (Millennium Development goals). Huge funds have been directed to execute these programmes which are so many that even those who coined them can be forgiven if they forget their meanings.

Give the data of maternal and infant mortality rates in the country?
Published maternal mortality rates in the country have been particularly diverse and sometimes contradictory depending on their sources. For instance, it was 800/100, 00 based on the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) 2000 survey; the figure was high as 3,000/100,000 according to Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Nigeria (SOGON) 2004, while the National Demographics Health Survey (NDHS) 2008 gave the figure as 545/100,000. The Lagos State Survey 2010 showed 555/100,000 at the state level; in Alimosho LGA- 826/100,000 and Ibeju- Lekki LGA- 758/100,000. The Lagos State Survey 2010 further showed the following figures: Ikorodu –    754/100,000; Ikeja -354/100,000; Surulere- 332/100,000; Lagos Island- 310/100,000 and Lagos Island- 310/100,000. According to another statistics: “Woman’s chance of dying from pregnancy and childbirth in Nigeria is one in 13 compared to one in 1750 (developed countries), one in 870 (East Asia), one in 90 (Latin America), one in 24 (Africa).” There is also a wide disparity in the burden of maternal death across the country: for instance, the north-eastern zone of the country having almost ten times the number of deaths that occur in the south-western zone.

How can the problem of maternal and infant mortality be addressed?
The second out of Prof M. Fathalla’s 10 propositions for safe motherhood for all women is recommendable in addressing the issue. It stated that “maternity is special and society has an obligation to make it safe. It further said; “pregnancy is not a disease. It is the means for the survival of our species. All women have a basic human right to be cared for and protected when they undertake the risky journey of pregnancy and childbirth, and society has an obligation to fulfil this. Safe motherhood is a human rights issue for which countries should be held accountable.”

Identify major causes of maternal mortality in the country?
The major causes are haemorrhage, infection, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, obstructed labour and anaemia.  It is important to state that utilising available know how as at today will render most of the deaths preventable. Maternal death is however is a consequence of  three levels of delay , including: Delay in seeking health care, delay in accessing health care and  delay in receiving help at the health centre.  Any effort to drastically reduce maternal mortality rates must address the root causes of these delays.

Discuss infant mortality?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) published 10 facts on child health which include; “A child’s risk of dying is highest in the first month of life. Three million children die every year within a month of their birth Pneumonia is the largest single cause of death in children under five years of age. The WHO report further stated; “diarrhoeal diseases are a leading cause of sickness and death among children in developing countries Every 45 seconds a child dies from malaria in Africa. “Over 90 per cent of children with HIV are infected through mother-to-child transmission. About 20 million children worldwide suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Three-quarters of child deaths occur in Africa and South-East Asia, the report said. Two-thirds of child deaths can be prevented through increased investment, according to WHO. In this regard, the Lagos State Government established the maternal and child mortality reduction programme, to address the situation.

Assess maternal and child mortality reduction programme in Lagos state?
The Lagos State Maternal and Child Mortality Reduction Programme Advisory Committee was established by the Ministry of Health in year 2008 to map out strategies and activities for the reduction of the unacceptably high maternal and child mortality rate in the state.  It is made up of relevant stakeholders drawn from Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Nigeria (SOGON), Paediatrics Association of Nigeria, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Association of Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN), Lagos State Board of Traditional Medicine Board (LSTMB), Lagos State Primary Health Care Board (co-opted after board inauguration in February 2009), Local Government Service Commission, Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation and officials in the Ministry of Health. The committee developed a five year work-plan for the implementation of activities aimed at accelerating attainment of the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. The work-plan was designed to improve the health seeking behaviour of women and children and also improve the quality of health services rendered.

The work-plan was marked with the launch of the maternal and child mortality reduction programme, by Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola on Thursday October 18, 2012. This date was named the Maternal and Child Mortality Reduction Programme Day by the Governor, during which the state and respective LGAs/LCDAs gives report of all programmes aimed at improving the health of mothers, pregnant women and children. The District Town Hall meetings are designed to ensure that key messages get to the grass roots where the maternal and child health interventions are needed most. A major focus is public enlightenment/sensitization and community mobilization. In this regard, series of town hall meetings are being planned on a Senatorial District basis. The first town hall meeting took place in Lagos west 1 Senatorial District on March 21, 2013 at Oshodi-Isolo LGA. LGAs/LCDA within the District include Mushin, Alimosho, Ifako-Ijaiye, Ikeja and Oshodi-Isolo) and the corresponding LCDAs.

 This story was published in Daily Newswatch on May 23, 2013.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Why canned fruits, vegetables are healthier than fresh produce

By: Chioma Umeha

The question:”Are canned fruits and vegetables a healthy alternative to fresh produce?” is common. Expert reports from Johns Hopkins Health Alerts answers in affirmative. Here are their reasons:

Although the heating process involved in canning does partially destroy some vitamins and other essential nutrients found in fresh produce, canned produce is still good for you. Very few of us pick, prepare and consume our produce at peak freshness — when it’s the most nutritious. Fresh fruits and vegetables are harvested before they are ripe, trucked long distances and stored before they make it to your produce section. As they age further in your grocery store or refrigerator, they lose additional nutritional value.

Canned Fruits
 Canned produce, in contrast, is packed and sealed at the peak of freshness, which helps prevent further nutrient loss associated with the canning process. In fact, canned whole tomatoes, tomato paste and jarred pasta sauce contain more lycopene than fresh tomatoes.

And compared with fresh corn and carrots, the canned varieties have more antioxidants, which may help prevent a number of diseases including cancer and heart disease. Beware of sugary syrup and salt. However, canned vegetables tend to be high in sodium, and canned fruits are often packed in sugary syrup. Look for fruit packed in natural fruit juice, and be sure to consume only canned vegetables that are advertised as low in sodium. Also, rinse canned foods before preparing them.

Finally, if you prefer canned produce to fresh produce because it keeps longer, try frozen fruits and vegetables, which are also packaged at the peak of freshness but don’t have the extra ingredients associated with canning.

Health Alert: A diet abundant in nutrient-rich foods can be a powerful tool in preventing disease. Maintaining a healthy weight through a combination of diet and exercise is known to lower the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis and many kinds of cancer.

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on  May 11, 2013.

NAFDAC arrests, parades drug counterfeit importers

By: Chioma Umeha

National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has arrested and paraded alleged importer of fast moving counterfeit medicines, mainly anti-bacterial cream and cosmetics, worth N106, 210 million in Lagos.

The drug counterfeit dealer, Mr. Olisaemeka Osefoh was arrested following a tip-off, when operatives from NAFDAC Investigation and Enforcement Directorate raided a warehouse located at Progressive Traders Market known for the sales of jewelries and cosmetic products, within Trade Fair Complex, Badagry Expressway, Lagos.
Some of the counterfeit medicines discovered and impounded were; Skineal Cream (I58 cartons x 10 x 24 x 15g), Funbact-A Cream (43 cartons x 3O x 12 x 30g), Mycoten Cream (719 cartons x 40 x 10 x 20g), Neurogesic Ointment (131 cartons x 40 x 10x35g), Rough rider Condom ( 56 cartons), Iman Luxury Powder ( 20 cartons) and Heal Balm (205 cartons). Addressing journalists, Thursday, Dr. Paul Orhii, Director General, NAFDAC, confirmed and described the arrest of Mr. Olisaemeka Osefoh, as among one of the ground breaking efforts of the agency, urging members of the public, landlords and market union members to report any suspicious activity relating to NAFDAC regulated products around their community to the nearest NAFDAC office for immediate action.

His words: “The Agency in the past week has arrested and investigated one Mr. Olisaemeka Osefoh for importation of counterfeit medicines into the country. Following a tip-off, operatives from NAFDAC Investigation and Enforcement Directorate raided a warehouse located at Progressive Traders Market known for the sales of jewelries and cosmetic products, within Trade Fair Complex, Badagry Expressway, Lagos.  According to the Orhii, the products were deliberately packed in plain cartons and wrapped in sacks to conceal their real identities. Also of note is that the Mycoten Cream and Neurogesic Ointment were labeled as manufactured in Nigeria, although they were imported.
“The estimated street value of the counterfeit medicines which is about 2 x 20 feet container load is one hundred and six million, two hundred and ten thousand naira (N106, 210,000.00) only,” the DG said. Orhii further said that Osefoh confessed to be in business with a cartel based in China where the products were sourced and stored in their warehouse before being shipped to the country. The DG said that the suspect has confessed how he illegally cleared the medicines through the Tin can Island Port, Lagos, adding; “the counterfeit medicines have been sampled against the suspect and he will be prosecuted as soon as investigation is concluded.”

He condemned drug counterfeiting, saying that it is worst than armed robbery and other crimes. The NAFDAC boss pointed out that latest findings has proved that drug counterfeiters now operate from markets that deal on other commodities to shield their dubious activities from law enforcement agencies.

“Recent discovery has revealed that drug counterfeiters now operate from markets that deal on other commodities so as not to draw the attention of law enforcement agencies on their nefarious activities,” he said. The Director reiterated the agency’s determination to rid the country of fake and unwholesome drugs. “However, I want to reiterate that there will be no sacred cow in the fight against counterfeit medicines; any counterfeiter arrested will be prosecuted according to the law of the land,” he said. He pledged to reward in monetary terms any member of the public, landlord and market union who reported any suspicious activity relating to NAFDAC regulated products around their community to the nearest NAFDAC office for immediate action, just as their identities will remain confidential.

The NAFDAC DG added; “this is part of their contribution in the fight against counterfeit and fake products.” He announced that NAFDAC will from now begin to clamp down on landlords of warehouses stocked with counterfeit drugs and other substandard regulated products. “It is also imperative to mention that landlords of warehouses stocked with counterfeit drugs and other substandard regulated products will henceforth be arrested and prosecuted as accomplices,” he said.

According to him, NAFDAC is working closely with the Chinese Embassy in Nigeria to track down the criminal company in China who connived with the suspect (Mr. Osefoh) to ship into the country these counterfeit medicines, adding; “the agency has enjoyed the support and co-operation of the Chinese Embassy in the fight against drug counterfeiting in the country.”

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on May 11, 2013.
Polio may paralyse, kill 250,000 children


There are fears that 250,000 children each year may be paralysed or die as a result of polio, if the global effort to eradicate the disease fails.

At the Global Vaccine Summit penultimate week, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) presented a comprehensive six-year plan to eradicate polio. The first plan is to eradicate all types of polio disease – both wild poliovirus and vaccine-derived cases – simultaneously. Global leaders and individual philanthropists signaled their confidence in the plan by pledging three-quarters of the plan’s projected US$ 5.5 billion cost over six years. They also called upon additional donors to commit up front the additional US$1.5 billion needed to ensure eradication.

The new plan capitalizes on the best opportunity to eradicate polio, with the number of children paralyzed by this disease at their lowest level ever (223 in 2012and 19 so far this year). The urgency is linked to the tremendous advances made in 2012 and the narrow window of opportunity to seize on that progress and stop all poliovirus transmission before polio-free countries become re-infected. “After millennia battling polio, this plan puts us within sight of the endgame. We have new knowledge about the polioviruses, new technologies and new tactics to reach the most vulnerable communities. The extensive experience, infrastructure and knowledge gained from ending polio can help us reach all children and all communities with essential health services,” said World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan.

However, there are fears that Nigeria may not meet this target based on the response to the on-going Immunization Pulse Days (IPD) which began Saturday, and ends today. While monitoring the exercise, Daily Newswatch, found out that there are existing gaps in the formula for success which is to immunize more children more consistently and to protect polio-free areas in the high risk states, local governments and villages in the upcoming critical rounds before the rainy season. The major challenges facing the programme is the re-appearance of well-organized anti-immunization propaganda which requires a coherent and effective response and the recent upsurge in security incidents in key states, especially Borno and Kano, that have delayed activities and hampered access to high risk areas.

Reacting to this, the Association of Polio Survivors of Nigeria urged parents across the country to ensure that all their children below the age of five, are vaccinated against the polio virus in each and every immunization round to save them from the crippling disease. “Every child that does not get the polio drops during a round, breaks the circle of protection and exposes self and others to contracting the virus,” said Misbahu Lawan Didi, National Chairman of the Association. Adding: “Polio virus not only cripples a child but is a scourge for the whole of the country and the world.”  Speaking on behalf of the Association that is an umbrella body for over 100,000 polio-affected people in the country, he said: “Nigeria is the only polio endemic country in Africa. If we fail to end transmission of polio virus here, all other countries are at risk of resurgence of polio. I urge all religious and traditional leaders to come out and ensure each and every child is vaccinated in every vaccination campaign.”

Polio Vaccination
Corroborating earlier views, Didi, commended progress made so far in the fight against polio, adding that the Association has launched a massive push to support efforts for ensuring that no child is missed in the Immunization Pulse Days (IPD) which began Saturday, and ends today, in 15 high risk northern States. Since the beginning of this year, 16 children below the age of five contracted Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in eight States in northern Nigeria compared to 40 cases that were detected in 10 States for the same period in 2012. The decrease in number of infected children and the concentration of cases in fewer states as compared to last year is seen as an opportunity for Nigeria, the only polio endemic country in Africa, to curb the scourge of polio.

Experts say that the rainy season provides the best environment for the virus to circulate and if all eligible children in the most affected areas of the country are vaccinated with the WPV vaccine in the next few rounds then the country stands a good chance in curtailing the transmission of the polio virus. The Polio Survivors Association has been actively participating in the efforts to sensitise people about the failure to vaccinate children against the polio virus by going out during rounds and speaking to some sections of the society that are against polio vaccination.

The recipe for success is to immunize more children more consistently and to protect polio-free areas quality gaps in the high risk states, local governments and villages must be closed in the upcoming critical rounds before the rainy season. The key challenges facing the programme is the re-appearance of well-organized anti-immunization propaganda requires a coherent and effective response and the recent upsurge in security incidents in key states, especially Borno and Kano, that have delayed activities and hampered access to high risk areas.

The Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013 to 2018 was developed by the GPEI in extensive consultation with a broad range of stakeholders. The plan incorporates the lessons learnt from India’s success becoming polio free (no cases since January 2011) and cutting-edge knowledge about the risk of circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses. It also complements the tailored Emergency Action Plans being implemented since last year in the remaining polio-endemic countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria – including approaches in place to vaccinate children in insecure areas.

Though President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration made a commitment to eradicate the wild polio virus in the country by September, there are still records of fresh cases of the diseases, especially in the Northern part of the country.

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on May 15, 2013.

2.4b will lack improved sanitation in 2015

By: Chioma Umeha

One-third of the world’s population (2.4 billion) will remain without access to improved sanitation in 2015, according to a joint WHO/UNICEF report issued Wednesday.
The report, entitled: Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-Water 2013 Update, warned that, at the current rate of progress, the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the proportion of the 1990 population without sanitation will be missed by eight per cent or half a billion people. While United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO announced last year that the MDG drinking water target had been met and surpassed by 2010, the challenge to improve sanitation and reach those in need has led to a consolidated call for action to accelerate progress.  “There is an urgent need to ensure all the necessary pieces are in place – political commitment, funding, leadership – so the world can accelerate progress and reach the Millennium Development Goal sanitation target,” said Dr Maria Neira, the World Health Organisation (WHO)   Director for Public Health and Environment. “The world can turn around and transform the lives of millions that still do not have access to basic sanitation. The rewards would be immense for health, ending poverty at its source, and well-being,” Neira said.

Makoko slum in Nigeria
In view of the report, the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, urgently called on the world community to combine efforts and end open defecation by 2025. With less than three years to go to reach the MDG deadline, WHO and UNICEF call for a final push to meet the sanitation target. “This is an emergency no less horrifying than a massive earthquake or tsunami,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, global head of UNICEF’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme.  “Every day hundreds of children are dying; every day thousands of parents mourn their sons and daughters. We can and must act in the face of this colossal daily human tragedy,” Wijesekera said. Among the key findings from the latest 2011 data, the report highlights: Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of the world’s population had access to improved sanitation facilities, an increase of almost 1.9 billion people since 1990. Approximately 2.5 billion people lacked access to an improved sanitation facility. Of these, 761 million use public or shared sanitation facilities and 693 million use facilities that do not meet minimum standards of hygiene. In 2011, one billion people still defecated in the open. 90 per cent of those who defecate in the open are the in rural areas.

By the end of 2011, 89 per cent of the world population had improved drinking-water source and 55 per cent had a piped supply on premises. This left an estimated 768 million people without improved sources for drinking water, out of which 185 million relied on surface water for their daily needs.  There continues to be a striking disparity between those living in rural areas and those who live in cities. Urban dwellers make up three-quarters of those with access to pipe water supplies at home. Rural communities comprise 83 per cent of the global population without access to improved drinking water source, while 71 per cent are living without sanitation. Faster progress on sanitation is possible, the two organizations say. The report summarizes the shared vision of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector including academia, human rights and global monitoring communities for a post-2015 world where:  “No one should be defecating in the open; everyone should have safe water, sanitation and hygiene at home; all schools and health centres should have water; sanitation and hygiene water, sanitation and hygiene should be sustainable; inequalities in access should be eliminated.”

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on May 16, 2013. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Nestlé’s Nescafé celebrates diamond jubilee

By:  Chioma Umeha

Nescafé Instant Coffee, a brand of beverage from the stable of Nestlé, which began as an idea solve the problem of what to do with unsold coffee in the late twenties is celebrating its diamond  jubilee and its position as one of the world’s favourite drinks. According to studies, more than 5,500 cups of Nescafé instant coffee are consumed every second with different varieties serving different tastes and preferences across the world.

 “We are celebrating the rich history and heritage of Nescafé, the world’s first instant coffee, which has kept the distinct coffee aroma. Over the past 75 years it has evolved from a tin of coffee to a full portfolio of products and systems,” said Carsten Fredholm, Head of Nestlé’s Beverage Strategic Business Unit. “Nescafé is present in over 180 countries and we are also highlighting its promise for future growth as it continues to lead the coffee beverage category,” he added. Following the Wall Street Crash and the collapse of coffee prices, the bank had a lot of coffee sitting unsold in warehouses in Brazil.

In 1929, Louis Dapples, the Nestlé Chairman then, was given the task of turning the stocks into a ‘soluble coffee cube’ to be sold to consumers by his former employer, the Banque Française et Italienne pour l’Amérique du Sud. After three years of research, the company in collaboration with one of its new employees then, a chemist Dr. Max Morgenthaler discovered that café au lait – coffee mixed with milk and sugar – converted into powder kept its flavour for longer. But this powder was not easily soluble, and the milk and sugar caused production challenges.
However Dr. Morgenthaler found that coffee taste and aroma were better preserved in sweetened milk coffee rather than unsweetened. He also found that the coffee kept longer after being exposed to high temperature and pressure. Dr Morgenthaler concluded that the secret of preserving the coffee aroma lay in creating a soluble coffee with enough carbohydrates. This was new and went against original thinking.
A year later he used a specific technique to produce a powder that did this, and presented it to the Nestlé Executive Board and technical directors as drinkable soluble coffee samples.
Two years later, on April 1, 1938, the soluble coffee product, named Nescafé, was launched in Switzerland. Nestlé set up a large-scale production line of coffee extraction and ‘spray drying’ coffee beans to produce Nescafé at its factory in the Swiss town of Orbe. The brand was rolled out in the United Kingdom two months later and the United States in 1939. By April 1940 Nescafé was available in 30 countries worldwide.
However, the Nescafé factory in St Menet, France, produced a new innovation – a product that didn’t need added carbohydrates in 1952.
 During the 1960s the product was re-launched in glass containers in Europe and Japan to help preserve freshness. In 1965 the brand unveiled another innovation – freeze-dried soluble coffee Nescafé Gold Blend.
Over the decades Nescafé expanded its soluble coffee recipe creating other varieties – Nescafé Decaffeinated, Nescafé Gold Espresso, Nescafé Frappé, Nescafé Cappuccino and Nescafé Ready-to-Drink. Nestlé has also made significant progress to address responsible farming, sourcing, manufacturing and consumption across its coffee supply chain therefore, unveiled the Nescafé Plan in Mexico City, in 2010; which is part of a CHF 500 million investment in coffee projects by 2020.

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on APRIL 6, 2013
World’s Kidney Day 2013: Nigeria to build first kidney hospital

 By: Chioma Umeha

Kidney Foundation for Africa (KFA), a non-governmental organisation has announced plans to build a kidney hospital in Nigeria, to provide affordable care services to patients with kidney problems and save billions of dollars lost in procuring such services outside the country.

Speaking during a press briefing organised Wednesday, to mark this year’s World’s Kidney Day, Executive Director, Kidney Foundation for Africa, (KFA) Clinton Peters, said that the hospital will render healthcare services in a cost effective manner. Peters stressed on the need for early detection. “Early diagnosis and immediate nephrology referral are key steps in management because it enables predialysis education, allow implementation of preventive measures that delay or even halt progression of Chronic Kidney Diseases (CKD) to end stage renal disease, as well as decrease initial morbidity and mortality,” Peters said. Chronic kidney disease sometimes results from primary diseases of the kidneys themselves, but the major causes are diabetes and high blood pressure, Peters said, adding that this is why KFA is partnering with Pfizer and other organisations to nip it from the bud.

 He further said that the aim of KFA is to raise awareness of the importance of the kidney to the overall health and to reduce the frequency and impact of kidney disease and its associated health problems across the country. Prof. Manoj R. Gumber of the institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre, Ahmedabad, India who visited Nigeria as a guest of the public lecture to mark the World Kidney’s Day by KFA also emphasized on the need for early detection. Gumber who is also a Professor of Nephrology, said that it is cheaper to prevent kidney disease than to treat it and advocated for a healthy lifestyle noting that the diseases is a silent killer.

The Professor of Nephrology of listed the effects and symptoms of chronic kidney disease to include: need to urinate frequently, especially at night (nocturia); swelling of the legs and puffiness around the eyes (fluid retention); high blood pressure and fatigue and weakness (from anemia or accumulation of waste products in the body). Others are loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting; itching, easy bruising, and pale skin (from anemia); shortness of breath from fluid accumulation in the lungs; headaches, numbness in the feet or hands (peripheral neuropathy), disturbed sleep, altered mental status (encephalopathy from the accumulation of waste products or uremic poisons), and restless legs syndrome.

The rest are; chest pain due to pericarditis (inflammation around the heart); bleeding (due to poor blood clotting); bone pain and fractures and decreased sexual interest and erectile dysfunction.
He said that one can seek medical care on the notice of any of the following symptoms: change in energy level or strength; increased water retention (puffiness or swelling) in the legs, around the eyes, or in other parts of the body; shortness of breath or change from normal breathing; nausea or vomiting; bone or joint pain; easy bruising or itching. Founder of KFA, Dr. Bose Peters, a kidney patient survivor narrated her plight and appealed to well-meaning Nigerians, government, public and private individuals to support KFA to save lives of indigent kidney patients who cannot afford to travel abroad to obtain required health care services to ameliorate their condition.

Director of Communication and Public Affairs, Pfizer, Mrs Margaret Olele, also noted that Pfizer is partnering with KFA as part of the company’s commitment to her social responsibility in supporting health care services in the area of cardiovascular services. The World kidney Day is marked every year in 154 countries for the purpose of creating awareness and educating the public on the public on the causes, prevention and cure for CKD which has become rampant all over the world, including Nigeria.

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on March 16, 2013

Fashola’s wife to be unveiled as face of infant HIV prevention

 By: Chioma Umeha

Lagos state government is worried that despite the existing facilities and services, the State still contributes significantly to the unacceptably high national maternal deaths and the national burden of HIV, due to low utilisation of PMTCT and Family Planning (FP) services.

The State is one of the 12+1 States which accounts for 70 percent of the Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV burden in Nigeria with its HIV prevalence of 5.1 percent based on the 2010 National HIV Sero – Prevalence Sentinel Survey and its vast population of 21,883,048, according to the Lagos State Bureau of Statistics.

In view of this, government is set for another round of campaign to accelerate the elimination of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV and maternal death reduction in the state. The goal is to catalyse high level support for the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and maternal deaths through the mobilisation of strategic stakeholders, including women of influence, to improve the demand for quality Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) and to encourage healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.

A rally to mark HIV/Aids Day, recently.
 The State is working in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Joint Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), as well as other relevant stakeholders to achieve this goal. According to a statement by the Lagos State Ministry of Health, the campaign will enable infected pregnant mothers to have increased access to services to prevent their babies from being infected, as well as to encourage more families to embrace family planning practices. Part of the strategy is to unveil Wife of the Governor, Dame (Mrs) Abimbola Fashola, as the face of Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT)/Maternal Health in the State.

The strategy will also provide an update on progress towards elimination of Mother-to-Child Transmission (MTCT) of HIV in the State in the light of the global plan targets highlighting achievements and gaps. It is also expected to stimulate commitment of critical stakeholders and provide vital information on PMTCT and a directory of functional PMTCT sites in the State. The statement stated that UNAIDS is committed to revolutionizing HIV prevention policies and practices that will ignite policy makers, opinion leaders and community gate keepers to focus on populations and programmes that will make a difference in getting to zero new infections.

One of such programmes is the elimination of vertical transmission of HIV and the reduction of AIDS-related maternal death by half in 2015. This mandate is clearly in line with that of UNAIDS zero AIDS related deaths and UNFPA: delivering a world where every birth is safe and where every woman is treated with dignity/respect. According to the 2012 projected population figures for Lagos State, there were 1,060,225 pregnant women in that year. At an HIV prevalence of 5.1 percent, about 54,071 pregnant women are infected with the virus and approximately one-third of whom would, in the absence of any interventions to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, pass the virus to their babies.

This translates to 16,468 preventable HIV infections among infants in the State during that year alone. The Lagos State maternal mortality ratio of 555/100,000 life-birth is higher than the national figure of 545/100,000 life birth. This statistics clearly negates UNFPA’s mandate of a world where every birth is safe and every child is born free of HIV. It is against this background that UNAIDS, UNFPA and UNICEF are supporting the Lagos State Government to convene this high-level meeting of women decision-makers in the State and other critical stakeholders to identify their roles in the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and maternal deaths.

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on October 16, 2014. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Hand washing: Over 150, 000 children don’t see their fifth birthday due to diarrhoea

By: Chioma Umeha 

Every year, over 150, 000 children do not see their fifth birthday due to diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene practices, a new study by U-Report confirmed. Experts have said that the trend is worrisome as simple handwashing with soap has been found to be one of the cheapest, simplest and most effective means of preventing diarrhoea and pneumonia, the leading causes of Nigerian child’s death.

L-R: Nollywood Actress and Brand Ambassador, Dettol, Patience Ozokwor (Mama Gee), General Manager, West Africa, Reckitt Benckiser, Rahul Murgai; Marketing Director, West Africa, Reckitt Benckiser, Oguzhan Silivrili, Nollywood Actress and producer with students of Royal Master’s Schools, Ikeja at the Media Parley unveiling the Dettol ‘Give Life A Hand’ Campaign in commemoration of Global Handwashing Day 2014.
 “Every year over 150,000 children die from diarrhoea alone, largely caused by unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene practices. Hand washing with soap is one of the cheapest, simplest and most effective means of preventing diarrhoea and pneumonia, the leading causes of child deaths in Nigeria. As the Ebola response takes its toll on the health services in the affected countries, the practice of hand washing is even more important in warding off these common diseases,” the U-Report said.

According to experts, this year’s Global Hand washing Day, being the seventh edition further underscores the importance of hand washing with soap in disease prevention and spread, in view of the current global fight against Ebola virus disease (EVD). A report on Tuesday, by UNICEF noted that hand washing with soap has been an important tool, an additional line of defence in the fight against the spread of EVD.
“In the fight against the spread of Ebola Virus Disease, hand washing with soap has been an important tool, an additional line of defence,” the report said.

This year’s theme “Choose hand washing, Choose Health” is apt given that hand washing with soap not only protects the individual, but also protects his/her family against the infections and prevents the spread of disease outbreaks, the UNICEF report said. Everyone can choose to wash hands with soap after using toilet and before eating/preparing food and thereby protect themselves and their families, it added. Global Hand washing Day a reminder that the simple practice saves lives.

In Nigeria, more than 10 million people will be reached with hand washing messages through various activities planned for this year’s commemoration of Global hand washing Day, the UNICEF report said. It added: “There will be nationwide hand washing promotion through high profile hand washing demonstrations in schools and communities, mass rallies, road shows, airing of jingles on radio and television. Also, dissemination of hand washing messages on U-Report, Facebook and Twitter have been planned for creating massive awareness on hand washing with soap in the country, the report said.

UNICEF has been supporting the governments in raising awareness about Ebola in Nigeria as well as in other affected countries, working to counter misconceptions about the disease that put even more people at risk. ‘Nigeria has done well so far to contain the spread of Ebola’, said Jean Gough, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. “What Nigeria needs now is sustained promotion of hand washing. Let’s pledge to make hand washing with soap a national habit and reduce the number of Nigerian children who die from diarrhoea annually’, she added.

This story was published in Daily Newswatch on October 16, 2014. 

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