Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Lagos govt renews pledge to improve health care

• Says it’ll complete Ayinke House project in 12 months

The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris has announced that there is renewed commitment by the present administration to ensure improved and quality healthcare for Lagos residents, explaining that activities in the sector will be geared to reflect the mantra of change the government of the day.

Speaking Tuesday at a media parley held at the Conference Room of the Ministry, Idris noted that measures are being taken by the administration to ensure the realisation of this objective.

The Lagos Health Ministry boss stressed that the challenges in the health sector may seem insurmountable, but the administration of Governor Ambode is committed to solving the problems step by step and systematically.

Idris further said that this administration would focus on attitudinal change among health workers, amongst other issues to be addressed in order to achieve effective and qualitative service delivery to the general populace.

L-R: Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Primary Healthcare, Dr. Olufemi Onanuga; Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Jide Idris and Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Omodele Osunkiyesi, during the media parley of the commissioner with health correspondents in Lagos…yesterday. Photo: Bode Agbede
 According to him, it will no longer be business as usual as the Ministry will no longer tolerate any act of indiscipline and is ready to mete out sanctions to erring workers and show impenitent ones among them the way out.

The Commissioner said that the State would train and retrain its health workforce to empower them order to deliver qualitative service to the teeming populace. According to him, the administration has procured power generating sets, ambulances and portable x-ray machines for distribution to public hospitals, among other laudable achievements.

He also said that, Ayinke House project which was abandoned by the former contractor had been re-awarded to another contractor that is ready to deliver the project in record time of 12 months contrary to speculation that the project has been abandoned.

He said: “The contractors handling the renovation messed it up. They had internal problems and they could not meet with the completion date of the project. The former administration even tried to help them yet they failed so we had to terminate the contract.

As we speak, we are incurring demurrage on the equipment we imported for use in the facility. However, we have re-awarded the project to another contractor who has promised to complete it soon.

Idris debunked the rumours that the State has also abandoned her plan to establish a medical park, but rather with modification of establishing it at the old Nursing School, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi in Lagos.

The Commissioner said that a technical team was already studying the medical insurance scheme with a view to implementing it in public hospitals. On the seemingly industrial health crisis in the State, Idris stated that a new synergy with the Lagos State Health Workforce has been developed which is already yielding fruitful results.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 24, 2015.

May& Baker leads pace in global drug manufacturing

• Ready to announce 1st set of  internationally prequalified products

Having been certified by World Health Organisation(WHO) since September 2014 for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), May& Baker PharmCentre said weekend that it would soon announce the first set of Nigerian internationally prequalified products.

Declaring this weekend, was the Managing Director/Chief Executive of May & Baker Nigeria Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okafor, at the company’s end of year media parley held to appreciate the commitment of the media, especially in partnership with his organisation, even as he said that they fulfilled financial returns of the company in 2015 compared to 2014.

While revealing that their initial products have been accepted by the WHO for assessment for pre-qualification, he said: “Very soon we shall be announcing the first set of Nigerian internationally prequalified products, while we continue to show deep commitment to excellence in all aspects of GMP.”

However, the Chief Executive, while highlighting the feat attained by May & Baker Nigeria Plc in the year under review declared: “We leveraged on our investment in our world-class pharmaceutical manufacturing facility to grow turnover and profit, despite the challenging business environment in the country. The facility is fast growing into a hub of pharmaceutical manufacturing in West Africa with a remarkable level of capacity utilization and efficiency.

L-R: Executive Director, Pharma Manufacturing, Mr. Ezekiel Ibidapo; Managing Director/CEO, Mr. Nnamdi Okafor and Head, foods Division, Mr. Valantine Okelu, all of May & Baker Nigeria Plc, during the end of year media parley held at the company’s Ota plant Ogun State…yesterday. Photo: Bode Agbede
“As the usage of the capacity of the factory grows, costs are now being optimized and the factory is daily getting to run more efficiently and more cost effectively,” he said.

On their joint venture project with the federal government, he said: “I can assure you that we keep making slow, but steady progress on this. Our confidence that this project will soon materialize is hinged on the recent development that Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), the body that has been largely responsible for the funding of supply of vaccines in Nigeria will be withdrawing subsidy by 2022. This has opened the urgent need for alternative sources for funds for the supply of vaccines for routine immunization.”

Beyond the above feats, the chief executive of M&B confidently assures the shareholders of the company to always expect improved performance every year. “In the new dispensation, as world class operators, we are taking steps to build a new class of human capital through training, reorientation and motivational schemes. The underlying success factors to our new orientation are people, performance, productivity, and of course, adequate returns on investments,” he assured.

Outlining some of the challenges of the Nigerian Pharma industry, Okafor pointed at the infrastructure, saying that the cost of doing business in Nigeria is very high especially on the area of power generation.

While responding on the issue of New National Drug Distribution Guidelines, he said the whole idea is to ensure that drug distribution in Nigeria is done the way it is done all over the world. “The only way we disagreed is how they were going to do it because they were going to have a few meager distributors. We know that those guys don’t have enough resources and capital, and therefore it was going to be a recipe for disaster and we blocked it. And government has acceded to the industry’s decision,” he explained.

While reacting on the government’s response to their demands in the adjustment of Common External Tariff, he said such tariff is abnormal in the sense that it’s making the drugs production in Nigeria to be more expensive. “At a time the government is facing a lot challenges such as creating jobs, foreign earnings dropping and also struggling to keep naira value, it does not make sense to encourage that. So we believe it was an oversight. It is something that has to do with ECOWAS, it is taking time to be corrected,” he said.

The Managing Director, noting that 2015 is yet roll by, said: “We are not yet in a position to give figures of our financial results for the outgoing year, as we still have two weeks to do business, after which the accountants and auditors will need to put the figures together. However, I can say that the first three quarters of the year pointed to very positive signals of where we shall be at full year.

“In the nine months of 2015, we achieved nine per cent growth in turnover and 165 per cent growth in profit before tax when compared with the same period in 2014. We had a turnover of N5.3 billion and N60.63 million profit for the period, compared to a revenue of N4.8 billion and loss of N93.5 million for the same period in 2014,” the MD said. He however acknowledged that their profit after tax also grew by 144 per cent to a net position of N41 million from loss of N93 million in 2014.

According to him, the result shows improvement in all fundamentals, a trend which he said started in the last quarter of 2014 and significantly improved by the first half of 2015. He also noted that the gross profit improved by 10.3 per cent over 2014 figures with a gross figure of N1.8 billion against N1.6 billion for the same period of 2014, adding: “Operating profit grew by 31 per cent from N360 million to N470 million also for the period.”

“We have kept our operating and admin expenses well below revenue and inflation growth rates. We also contained our main headache, finance charges, reducing it by 8.7 per cent from N466 million in 2014 to N425 million same periods in 2015,” he stated.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 24, 2015.

Benola fetes inmates of Hearts of Gold at Christmas

As a show of love and in the spirit of sharing, a non-profit organisation, Benola, A Cerebral Palsy Initiative, has donated relief materials consisting of food items and toiletries to Hearts of Gold (HOG) Children’s Hospice. Making the presentation weekend, Femi Gbadebo, Founder/CEO, Benola, A Cerebral Palsy Initiative, who led the delegates to HOG Children’s Hospice at Plot 75 Alhaji Masha Road, Onilegogoro, Surulere, Lagos state, explained that Benola’s visit was part of his organisation’s Christmas outreach efforts to identify with indigent children who are living with disabilities.

Gbadebo expressed optimism that the items given to them would go a long way in helping the beneficiaries as well as experience the warmth and sharing identifiable with the Yuletide season.

Newswatch Times reports that the organisation, founded and co-founded by Gbadebo and his wife, Alaba, is committed to change and progress for persons living with Cerebral Palsy. Their mission is to strive for their inclusion into society in order to ensure that they and those who care for them live the best possible life under the peculiar circumstances in which they find themselves.

According to Benola CEO, the visit to HOG which was the second time in the year, was targeted to fulfill his organisation’s mission to improve lives of people with disabilities.

Gbadebo who further said that the visit was quite fulfilling added that Benola look forward to more interactions with Hearts of Gold in the near future.

Responding, Mrs. Laja Adedoyin, the Founder, visibly excited that Benola was visiting the home for the second time in the year while conducting the team round the hostels to see amazing array of children with very unique malformations, thanked them.

Hearts of Gold or HOG as it is popularly known has been in existence since 2003 and remains the first and only children’s hospice in Nigeria that caters to the increasing number of abandoned and orphaned children aged between six months to 13 years who are suffering from a vast range of severe congenital, physical and mental disabilities. For children with terminal and other life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses the hospice offers comfortable, caring and loving environment. They also provide palliative and respite care services.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 24, 2015.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Infant HIV Infections, Deaths Threaten Disease Elimination

Experts have warned that the increase in diseases and deaths associated with  HIV infections among infants has virtually eroded most of the previous gains towards elimination of Mother-To-Child Transmission (MTCT)  in Nigeria.

The warnings came during a just concluded two-day meeting at Bayview Hotel, Enugu, which assessed individual and collective efforts towards eMTCT of HIV with emphasis on communications through the mass media. The meeting was organised by members of Journalist Alliance for Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of HIV in Nigeria(JAPiN) with support from United Nations Children Fund(UNICEF). 

A communiqué signed by Sola Ogundipe, National Coordinator, JAPiN said: “An undisputed observations show that the morbidity and mortality associated with pediatrics HIV infection has virtually eroded most of the previous gains towards elimination of MTCT in Nigeria.”

More worrisome is the fact that not less than 60,000 new infections are recorded among children in the country yearly, a situation that has called for aggressive PMTCT intervention, the communiqué said.

According to the communiqué, observations from the various JAPiN zones and states also showed that the progress made in PMTCT towards eMTCT have been grossly inadequate.

Other observations are: “Nigeria has been left behind in efforts to mitigate the burden of HIV and AIDS through PMTCT because of poor aggregation and coordination of efforts,” the communiqué said.

Members of Journalists Alliance for Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission of
HIV in Nigeria (JAPiN) at the just concluded meeting in Enugu.

JAPiN further noted that there is significant decline in funding of PMTCT activities and other HIV interventions by international donors in Nigeria.

The group also stated that the huge gap in advocacy due to poor coordination is hurting efforts to redress MTCT situation in Nigeria.

The communiqué added: “JAPiN observes huge communication gap in PMTCT efforts towards eMTCT in Nigeria due to poor cooperation from frontline managers of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria.

“Man-made barriers to efforts of Nigerian journalists (JAPiN members) as communicators/advocates for PMTCT and eMTCT, adding; “Members have been faced with harsh receptions from government agencies, in which case NACA and some SACAs have been found culpable,” it said.

“Poor documentation of cases has beclouded the true situation of MTCT in Nigeria and efforts to prevent and eliminate it. Nigeria still slow at graduating to B+ Option for PMTCT,” the communiqué said.

The group therefore recommended that PMTCT interventions in Nigeria should be guided by the new UNAIDS target of 90:90:90, which is to ensure that 90 per cent of the global population is tested for HIV, 90 per cent of those who test positive have access to treatment and for 90 per cent to be virally suppressed.

Since HIV is not a stand-alone goal under SDGs, JAPiN said; “There is the need to sustain its visibility by prioritising interventions towards meeting related goals and targets, using the broader Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) scheme.”

It also said that there is need to document milestones, gaps, lessons and prospects towards eMTCT using the mass media as first line approach.

Others are the need to remove bottle-necks to PMTCT coverage by the media; ensure closer relationships between managers of HIV and AIDS control agencies at the national, state and local government levels.

The communiqué insisted that it is important to create strategic local funding initiatives and sound monitoring mechanism for transparency.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 17, 2015.

Reconstitute Pharmacists Council of Nigeria – Yakasai tells Minister

Ahmed Yakasai is the new President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). In a briefing with some select journalists, recently in Lagos, Yakasai urged the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, to facilitate the immediate reconstitution of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria and appoint at least one pharmacist on each of the Boards of Federal Health Institutions.

The new PSN President said this appeal was part of the highpoints of his presentations to the Minister of Health, during his recent courtesy visit to the Minister’s office. Other issues in his presentations to the Minister were requests for the National Health Act implementation, urgent intervention in critical sector areas like the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET), and so on to save the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry.

Yakasai whose formal inauguration as the President of PSN comes February 2016 in Abuja, insists that the Minister should address all pertinent, emerging and contemporary issues critical to healthcare delivery. CHIOMA UMEHA (HEALTH EDITOR) has the excerpts:


Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria was founded in 1927 and registered under section 21 of the 1922 Companies Act. It is an umbrella body of all the registered pharmacists in Nigeria with a vision to be recognized as a society whose members are accessible healthcare professionals responsible for the provision and rational use of safe, effective and affordable medicines, pharmaceutical care and the promotion of public health and quality of life.

Our stand on some contemporary issues especially as it relates to health care delivery covers the following areas: Drug Distribution Guidelines and Related Matters; Implementation of the National Health Act 2013; Reconstitution of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria(PCN) and Boards of Teaching/Specialist Hospitals; Continued Instability in the Health Sector; Impact of ECOWAS Common Tariff (CET); Policy Implementation and welfare of workers in Nigeria.

Drug distribution guidelines and related matters

PSN commend the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Health in initiating a Drug Distribution Guideline for the country. Presently, the Federal Ministry of Health through recommendations from the PSN, Pharma stakeholders and the regulatory forum has approved a new drug distribution flow chart for the country.

The new drug distribution flow chart has a slight amendment from the original National Drug Distribution Guidelines which limited choices of prospective wholesalers to State Drug Distribution Centres and Mega Drug Distribution Centres. The concept of Coordinated Wholesale Centres which is now an extra to the wholesalers offers a major opportunity to close down open drug markets in our country once and for all.

The PSN, PCN, NAFDAC and FMOH have worked maximally on this project and we strongly urge the Ministry of Health to sustain this spirit in the current dispensation.

Implementation of the National Health Act 2014

We reiterate our commendations to all those who made it possible for the country to have its first National Health law.

It is important to put on record that the National Health Act is probably the only statute that attracted the attention of a wide spectrum of stakeholders in health and the larger society. There is therefore an urgent need to factor in this broad spectrum solidarity in fashioning the implementation of the National Health Act.

The immediate past dispensation of the Federal Ministry of Health was reported by a section of the media as having sworn in a new Technical Review Committee (TRC) for the National Health Act (NH Act 2014).

The Committee which was said to be “cautiously selected to guarantee representation of the key institutions has a mandate to guide the implementation of the National Health Act.”

Naturally, the PSN accepts the principle of setting up Committees which is also within the powers of the Federal Ministry of Health.

As a follow up to the Technical Review Committee on the National Health Act 2014, a series of other implementation templates of the National Health Act have emerged without representation being sought from PSN and some other professional Associations and Unions in the health sector. We are worried that the members of the 26-man Technical Review Committee and other related committees are unknown to the larger portion of key stakeholders.

Reconstitution of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria and Boards of teaching/specialist hospitals

We do not wish to bore you with all the tragedies associated with the constitution and operations of the PCN in a particular dispensation, specifically between 2009 and 2011.

In the short time we have had to run without a governing council, we have tried very hard to sustain the ideals of pharmacy practice in Nigeria. Fundamentally, disciplinary matters and accreditation of pharmacy facilities for training suffers in the absence of Council. We urge you to facilitate the immediate reconstitution of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria.

In the same vein, it is pertinent we inform you about the lopsidedness of appointments on the Board of Teaching and Specialists Hospitals as well as Federal Medical Centres. In the last dispensation pharmacists were represented on only five of the well over 55 Boards of these Federal Health Institutions. Our experience confirms that this lopsided appointment format affects healthcare plans and ultimately overall output. We therefore reiterate our previous appeal that at least one pharmacist be appointed on each of the Boards of our Federal Health Institutions.

Instability in health sector

For a comprehensive, coordinated, safe health system that is responsive to the needs of the population, efficient use of resources, increased job satisfaction, with reduced stress of health professionals, we need collaborative practice based on trust and mutual respect among the health care team.

Internationally, the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA) is a body which unites the International Pharmaceutical Federation, World Medical Association, International Council of Nurses, World Dental Federation and World Confederation for Physical Therapy for collaborative practice. There is therefore the need to have a Nigerian replica of WHPA and work harmoniously as a team. It is possible.

Some pressing challenges in the health sector which have lingered for so long compel a dire need to appeal to the Minister to urgently look into the problems.

The issue of Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owerri

For over three months, health professionals and workers, members of our associations and unions at the FMC, Owerri, were on strike, practically closing down the hospital for the entire period, subjecting patients and members of the public to untold hardship. It is hoped that the Fact Finding Committee that was constituted on this challenge would carry out her assignment expeditiously.

Non-employment of graduates of pharmacy

Non-employment of graduates of pharmacy into the Federal tertiary hospitals as intern pharmacists or as registered pharmacists even Federal Health Institutions in the catchment areas where pharmacy graduates were trained does not employ them.

The attitude of management in some of the Federal Health Institutions is a major let down. Often times the Drug Revolving Funds are decapitated because the funds are diverted to other endeavours which is a violation of the Drug Revolving Funds manuals and guidelines in the enabling statute.

PSN deems it necessary to inform you on the viability of well managed Drug Revolving Funds in public health institutions.

The issue of commercialization or privatization of health facilities which cannot be in tandem with global best practice which is different from a public private partnership (PPP) concept.

However, there is also need for health system audit and general overhaul for efficiency, therefore some services like catering, security, mortuary services and general maintenance can be totally privatised.

Impact of ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET)

The Implementation of ECOWAS CET which allows finished Pharmaceutical products to be imported at zero percentage duty is a good gesture and same should be extended to raw and packaging materials which now attract a duty percentage ranging from five per cent to 20 per cent. This simply means that locally manufactured pharmaceutical products have become uncompetitive. The fall out is an imminent closure of all Nigerian Pharmaceutical plants. Also, many pharmaceutical manufacturers are running out of raw materials due to lack of response from banks on the letter of credit requests and is likely that many will close shop in the next two months. We urge you to intervene on this critical issue.

Policy implementation

The Nigeria Drug Policy provides that 70 per cent of government purchase should be sourced from local manufacturers. I think the time has come for this policy to be implemented at all levels of government. It will boost internal capacity utilization and make local manufacturing more attractive. With the opportunity of new government and new way of doing things and from your character and characteristics, I have no doubt in my mind that you will provide a strategic direction, develop and implement policies that will see the Pharmaceutical sector become globally attractive and competitive

Welfare of health workers in Nigeria

There is need for implementation of the spirit of the existing circular on promotion of our members from CONHESS 14 to 15 as directors which places premium on the need to sanction defaulting hospital managements.

Specific steps must be taken by the Head of Service of the Federation to ensure the expedited issuance of an enabling circular authorizing consultancy cadre for health professionals that have adhered to due process, to be vested with consultancy status as a prelude to inculcating this cadre into the schemes of service of these health professionals.

This must be worked out with the Federal Ministry of Health in line with the spirit of the circular on consultancy and specialist allowances Ref. SMH.491/S.2/VOL II.221 of March 29, 1976, which authorizes consultancy status for all health professionals, and the condition precedent of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) that provides for a nod of the Federal Ministry of Health for the appointment of consultants.

Payment of arrears of specialist allowances to qualified hospital based health professionals with effect from January 1, 2010, should be ensured. So also, we request for payment of arrears of the skipping of CONHESS 10 which remains outstanding the same period.

We further request the release of the circular on adjustment of salary since January 2014 and immediate payment of at least two months arrears, while the balance is accommodated with proven evidence in the 2016 budget.

We further demand sponsorship of an amendment bill to correct the anomalies in Decree10 of 1985 (CAP U15 463) LFN 2004, especially in the following areas:       Lopsided composition of the Board of management; appointment of chief executive officers (CEOs) of federal health institutions; appointment of Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (C-MAC); Appointment of Deputy Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (C-MAC); Training of health professionals; Removal of the borders of restriction on permanent staff of federal health institutions; National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)

In the spirit of the broad spectrum of reforms, there is no reason why for six years now the NHIS encourages unlawful payment mechanisms dubbed global capitation, while HMOs also capitates secondary and tertiary facilities which completely disrupts the equilibrium of the health system.

We demand that the Federal Government direct the board and management of the NHIS to immediately adopt lawful payment mechanism to wit, capitation for primary providers and fee for service for secondary and tertiary providers.

Government must also redress the capitation modes by embracing international global best practices on what constitutes a primary facility for capitation in Nigeria.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 17, 2015.

NACA takes HIV counseling, testing to Lagos communities

The National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) has commenced a four-day free medical screening programme consisting of HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT), test for diabetes, hypertension and malaria as well as deworming for children in Shomolu Local Government Area of Lagos State.

Over 5,000 residents of Shomolu are expected to benefit from this four-day free medical care programme slated to run from Monday, December 14 till today at strategic locations within the Shomolu Local Government Area.

Speaking at the flag-off of the programme at Olaleye Market, Shomolu, the Principal Programme Officer of NACA, Mrs. Ronke Adeoye noted that the HCT outreach campaign is geared towards making residents to know their HIV status through counseling testing and help achieve the 2030 goal of zero new infection, zero discrimination against people living with HIV as well as zero AIDS related death.

L-R Acting Cheif Executive Officer, Lagos State AIDS Control Agency, Dr Olusegun Ogboye;
Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris; and Executive Secretary, Somolu Local Government,
Mr. Biodun Orekoye during the flag-off of a four-day Free Medical Care & HIV Counselling
and Testing Programme Organised by the National Agency for the Control of AIDS
 in Lagos on Monday.
Said she , “this programme is organized by NACA and MDG; the whole essence is to get people tested and to know their HIV/AIDS status. We found out that people will not ordinarily go to the clinic for testing, so we thought it wise that it is better to bring the testing to their doorstep; as a result of this, we have sensitized the people and the community to come out for testing”.

Adeoye stated that residents will also be opportuned to do blood pressure test, blood sugar test and malaria test in addition to HIV counseling and testing adding that children will also have the opportunity to be dewormed while people also have access to free medications.

“This outreach is very important because as a nation, we want to get to zero level by 2030; which means that by 2030 we want to have zero new infection, zero discrimination against people living with HIV as well as zero AIDS related deaths”, the programme officer said.

She expressed optimism that the 2030 target is possible if only people can come out and know their status stressing that the only way this can be done is through counseling and testing.

“This is why we have brought the HIV counseling and testing to their door-step in the community where the people reside to help them in the quest to get counseled and tested; it is our belief that if we do this, we will actually get to our target by 2030”, Adeoye said.

She noted that most important prevention against HIV/AIDS is for people to abstain from risky behaviours and use protection like condoms. She added that prevention-of-mother-to-child transmission of HIV is possible, stressing that pregnant women who are HIV-positive can actually give birth to HIV- negative children.

“This outreach is actually going on in other states and the Federal Capital Territory including 12 states that are HIV- positive endemic states; the essence is to make people come out to get tested; that is why we are taking the campaign to them”.

“We do not want a situation where people will be down with the sickness before they go to the hospital; we want to forestall this scenario by bringing the service to their door-step and this is why we are using market spaces and bus-stops where people can easily access HCT services”, Adeoye noted.

Earlier, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, noted that HIV burden has gone down nationally, but stressed that the state government is still working assiduously to improve access to HCT activities.

Said he, “as a responsible government, it is our duty to ensure that we prevent our people from contacting HIV/AIDS and that is why we have started this programme with our national body; NACA, so that everybody will understand what HIV/AIDS is all about, how it is spread and how we can prevent ourselves from contacting it”.

The Commissioner noted however, there are behaviours that one can adopt to prevent HIV infection like the practice safe sex by abstaining, if not married; sticking to one faithful, uninfected partner if married and using condom appropriately if you must have casual sex.

He listed other preventive behaviours to include avoiding the use of unsterilized skin-piercing instruments, ensuring that only screened blood are transfused or received and infected mothers should seek advice before getting pregnant so that all steps will be taken to ensure that the baby is not infected.

Idris enjoined every pregnant woman to make sure that they undertake the test so that the health workers can help her protect the unborn baby from HIV infection noting that all government hospitals offers HIV counseling and testing services and some selected Primary Health Centres.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 17, 2015.

FrieslandCampina WAMCO closes with 13 awards

FrieslandCampina WAMCO, one of the   foremost dairy companies, garnered 13 awards in 2015 ranging from ‘Most Improved’ and ‘Most Respected’ to one of the ‘Best Three Tax Compliant Companies in Nigeria’ awards recipient. FrieslandCampina WAMCO emerged, “Most Improved Company in CSR” at the 2015 SERAs – Social Enterprise Report and Awards – in recognition of its remarkable corporate social responsibility strides, especially with its Dairy Development Programme (DDP).

Mr. Rahul Colaco, Managing Director/CEO, FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria Plc 
The Dairy Development Programme that earned FrieslandCampina WAMCO the “Most Improved Company in CSR 2015” award enables dairy farmers to run their businesses optimally and bring dairy production to higher volumes and quality. To facilitate this programme, FrieslandCampina WAMCO setup four milk collection centres (MCCs) in Fasola, Alaga, Maya and Iseyin as well as a milk bulking centre (MBC) in Iseyin, Oyo State.

BusinessDay Media Ltd, publishers of BusinessDay daily newspapers, also gave FrieslandCampina WAMCO an award as one of Nigeria’s Top 100 Most Respected Companies in 2015.

For unfailing compliance in tax remittances, FrieslandCampina WAMCO received a Chartered Institute of Taxation, Nigeria (CITN) Merit Award in the Corporate – Private Sector category as one of the best three tax compliant companies in Nigeria.   FrieslandCampina WAMCO’s 2015 awards include the LCCI Commerce and Industry Award, NECA/NSTIF Ambulance Award, Iconic Brand of the Year (Peak) Award from Marketing World Magazine, Nutrition Society of Nigeria Award of Excellence, and Sales Excellence Award for Distribution by the Institute of Certified Sales Professionals.

Others are the University of Ibadan (Food Technology) Social Responsibility Award, NASD-OTC Securities Award of Excellence & Special Recognition, Brand Africa 100 Best Brands Award, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria’s Total Compliance Award and the Gold Winner TVC Award (Peak) by the Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN).

For over 60 years, FrieslandCampina WAMCO has deliberately positioned itself as a provider of branded high quality dairy nutrition throughout Nigeria and West Africa. With a clear strategy of providing affordable nutrition through a range of low unit portion packs (LUPP) of its premium brands – Peak and Three Crowns evaporated and powdered milk – consumers can access quality dairy with as low as 10 naira.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 17, 2015.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

What you do not know about diabetes

Diabetes is at epidemic proportions across the globe and most people know someone living with this condition. The serious physical and mental health complications associated with all types of diabetes however, are less widely known. Here are things you may not know about diabetes.

Personal and social costs of diabetes are enormous

If you live with diabetes you will know that it is not just about sugar. Most people associate diabetes with the sweet stuff, but it is far more complicated than that. Many people experience significant impact on their social and emotional wellbeing.

There are different types of diabetes and while they have similar impacts on your body, they are very different diseases

There are three basic types – type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes (pregnancy diabetes). They have similar problems in relation to lack of insulin, but have different causes and management regimes. Type 2 diabetes never turns into type 1 diabetes, but many people with type 2 diabetes will eventually need some insulin injections to manage due to the progressive nature of the condition.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease and nothing to do with lifestyle or eating too much sugar

In type 1 diabetes the pancreas does not make insulin at all because the cells that produce insulin have been destroyed by the body’s own immune system. While we are getting closer, we still don’t understand why this happens, but some kind of trigger sets of an autoimmune attack. It is usually diagnosed in people under 40, but can occur at any age. Insulin acts as a key to open the blood cells and release glucose from your food into your brain, muscles and organs, where it is needed to live. For people with type 1 diabetes insulin must be replaced in order to survive.

While it usually affects older adults, more and more younger people are developing type 2 diabetes

Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, with around 85-90% of all people having type 2. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas still makes some insulin, but this reduces over time. The other problem is that insulin in people with type 2 diabetes does not work effectively due to insulin resistance. There is a strong genetic link and this risk is increased when there are also lifestyle factors, such as high blood pressure, being overweight or obese, not being active enough, eating an unhealthy diet and having the classic ‘apple shape’ body where extra weight is carried around the waist.

Other risk factors include specific cultural groups being at higher risk, being over 40 and spending a lot of time sitting and not enough time moving. It is not true that people with type 2 diabetes caused their own disease and nobody should ever be blamed or feels guilty about having diabetes.

Once you have diabetes, the impact on your life is relentless

Depending on the type of diabetes, people with diabetes must carry out daily self-management tasks such as finger pricks several times a day to check blood glucose, counting carbohydrates in every meal, taking multiple injections and medications, or wearing and managing an insulin pump. The risks of not maintaining tight control of blood glucose include blindness, kidney failure, stroke, heart attack and nerve damage.

Every aspect of activity in life affects blood glucose and many people feel like they are walking a tightrope, or riding a rollercoaster

Exercise, stress, food and hormones, are just a few of the things that can wreak havoc with blood glucose when your body does not have a functioning pancreas. It can be extremely difficult to maintain and often unpredictable, isolating and frightening.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 12, 2015.

Drug counterfeit: Experts fault Nigeria’s legal regulatory framework

Experts have faulted Nigeria’s legal enforcement/regulatory mechanisms, saying it lacks the capacity of protecting the ultimate consumer against counterfeit and pirated goods, as well as obstacle to Africa’s development. Stating this recently at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) SummEx (Summit & Exhibition), the experts linked improved Nigeria’s legal framework with progress in food security and disease control.

They stressed that achieving food security and disease control, particularly malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and reproductive health is critical to Africa’s attainment of the required socio-economic development.

The experts further explained that this involve access to drugs that are safe and efficacious, and food that is wholesome and nutritious, but regretted that the country’s poor legal framework is a big setback giving rise to high index of fake and pirated goods.

Emphasizing this in his paper titled: “Counterfeiting Legislation and Enforcement,” Dr. Paul Orhii, NAFDAC DG, said that the main task of any Food and Drug Control Authority is to ensure the purity, quality, safety and efficacy of the food and drugs made available to the public.

Barr. Ejiofor Kingsley, Director, investigation and enforcement; Mr. Okey Akpa, Chairman, Pharmaeutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMGMAN); Dr. Paul Orhii, Director General, NAFDAC; Mr. Jide Fowode, President , Milestone Marketing Limited and Mr. Laolu Owolabi during the just conclude NAFDAC SUMMEX
Orhii explained that this is mainly done by making sure that the manufacture, procurement, import, export, supply and sale of food and drugs; product promotion and advertising as well as clinical trials are carried out according to specified guidelines.
The NAFDAC boss stressed: “Thus, if Africa is to attain the required socio-economic development, it must make progress in the areas of food security and disease control; particularly malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and reproductive health.”

According to him, food and drugs imported or manufactured outside of effective regulatory frame work would pose great and immediate risks to the public.

The NAFDAC boss maintained: “It must be understood that any agent that directly threatens to destroy a significant proportion of a state’s population constitutes a direct threat to that state’s economic wellbeing and health security. Health is an index of development and no country has achieved any remarkable economic growth and social development without necessary improvement in its national health report.”

However, lamenting at this year’s SummEX which was mainly sponsored by the First City Monumental Bank (FCMB), experts said that the country’s legal framework is outdated in tackling today’s counterfeiting.

Speaking, one of the presenters, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) J.A. Badejo,   explained: “This is partly because the legal regimes have the reputation of lagging behind the 21st century ICT age and obviously the laws, though quite ambitious in anti-piracy and counterfeit products or devices, remain slow or weak and inadequate.

He added: “The efforts of enforcement/regulatory mechanisms need to be strengthened technically, materially, financially to live up to expectations for the health, safety and security of consumers and for sustainable development, of our societies.”

Also, speaking on behalf of Abubakar Jimoh, Director, Special Duties, NAFDAC, Christiana Obiazikwor, Chief PRO, of the agency said that the programme has been put together for direct engagement with all stakeholders under the statutory regulation of the food and drug agency.

According to her, the summit and exhibition is a single platform for the agency and all her stakeholders to showcase innovations and ideas.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 12, 2015.

LUTH CMD commends Guinness support to eye care

Management of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) has commended Guinness Nigeria over its consistent support for the Guinness Eye Centre. The commendation came during a courtesy visit by Guinness Nigeria Plc to LUTH, where the brewing company donated N5 million.

Professor Christopher Bode, Chief Medical Director of LUTH, said that he was pleased with Guinness Nigeria’s involvement in sustaining the management of its eye centres for over 50 years, adding that the centre would continue to deliver excellent eye care to patients. He thanked Guinness Nigeria for the timely and auspicious donation to the Centre and expressed his desire for a continued partnership.

“The gem that was sown many years ago has grown into a mighty oak that has trained over 100 specialist doctors, many medical students and other sundry healthcare workers. This eye centre is a living testimony to the values that Guinness espouses as a strong Nigerian brand.

They have stayed with us over the years and I can boldly say that Guinness has a veritable legacy in LUTH. I would like to encourage other corporate bodies to follow this marker which Guinness has laid, and adopt various departments in our hospital,” Bode said.

Speaking at the ceremony, Sesan Sobowale, Corporate Relations Director, Guinness Nigeria noted that the donation is in keeping with the company’s commitment to supporting the Guinness Eye Centres in sustenance of its original vision and to ensure that the facility remains the reference point in the provision of excellent eye care in Nigeria’s health sector.

“Our relationship with the hospital is a long one. It is worthy to note that many years after the establishment of the LUTH Guinness Eye centre, it has continued to receive commendations from different parts of the world. At Guinness, our vision has always been to make a positive difference in society.

We believe passionately that when we help Nigerians preserve their sight, we not only deliver quality eye care, but we also contribute to the socio-economic development of Nigeria,” he said.

Speaking on the rationale behind the donation, Sobowale said: “It is our hope that this gesture would enhance the capacity of the Eye Centre to serve many more Nigerians. We will strive to do more with a view to creating a healthy society that improves the overall development of the nation.”

Some dignitaries present at the occasion include, Sustainable Development Manager, Guinness Nigeria, Mr. Osita Abana, Head of Department, Guinness Eye Centre, LUTH, Prof Folasade Akinsola; Professor of Ophthalmology, Guinness Eye Centre, LUTH, Prof. Adebunkola Adefulu-Ositelu; Mr. Kelechi Otunmere, Head, Corporate Services, LUTH, Drs. Aribaba, Onakoya and other consultant ophthalmologists.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 10, 2015.

PSN President becomes 1st W/A honorary Consul-General of Pakistan

• Dedicates it to Nigerian pharmacists

Barely one month after he emerged as President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Pharm. Ahmed Ibrahim Yakasai, has added a feather in his cap as he was appointed the Honorary Consul -General of Pakistan in Nigeria.

Yakasai’s appointment was contained in a letter signed by President Asif Ali Zardari of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

A statement made available to Newswatch Times, on Monday, said that the letter was presented to him by the Pakistan High Commissioner in Nigeria, retired Lt Gen Agha Umer Farooq, at a well-attended investiture ceremony at Meena event Centre, Nassarawa GRA Kano.

Commenting on Yakasai’s new appointment, the Pakistani High commissioner in Nigeria, His Excellency Lt Gen Agha Umer Farooq, (Rtd) commended Nigeria for the cooperation his country has enjoyed in her diplomatic relationship for decades.

According to him, Pakistan has enjoyed goodwill from Nigeria through capacity building, energy, science and technology, pharmaceutical, healthcare, agriculture and others.

Ahmed Ibrahim Yakasai
President of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN)
He was optimistic that Nigeria and Pakistan could achieved a lot together in the years ahead as it is about to strengthen the diplomatic ties between both countries.

The example is demonstrated through diplomatic assignment it has given a Nigerian citizen, the first of its kind in the age long history of West Africa, the statement said.

Gen Farooq noted that Yakasai merits the honour on the basis of his strong capacity to build bridges of understanding and co-operation to promote economic and human resource development between two communities. He further said With Yakasai’s new appointment; he is not only a Nigerian and Pakistan property, but a global figure while noting that his acceptance of the diplomatic assignment will open new opportunities to empower people from both countries.

In response, Yakasai said his 15-years relationship with the Pakistan ranges from business to establishment of community hospital.

According to him, this among many other selfless services to humanity culminated into his new appointment. He noted that this is a very rare honour done to Kano, Nigeria, African and the world and promised to uphold the confidence reposed in him.

He noted, “This is a very rare honour done to Kano, Nigeria, African and the world,” and promised to uphold the confidence reposed in him.

Continuing, he pledged his sustained commitment to serving humanity anywhere he finds himself, adding that he has exemplified this by abandoning a more lucrative and highly paid consultancy jobs in many organizations for a lower paid assignment of a Civil Commissioner in Kano from 2005 till 2011.

The new PSN boss also said that his new diplomatic assignment as the Honorary Consul-General of Pakistan in Nigeria will not in any way disturbs the discharge of his duties as President of the society.

The investiture ceremony had several eminent persons in attendance including: Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje who was represented by the Deputy Governor of Kano State, Prof Hafiz Abubakar; Sardaunan Ringim; Alh. Muhammad Badaru Abubakar; former Governor of Kano State, and former Federal Minister of Education and Sardaunan Kano, Malam (Dr.) Ibrahim Shekarau and former Military Administrator of Jigawa State, Col Abubakar Zakari Maimalari (retired).

According to the statement, the Emir of Kano Alhaji (Dr.) Muhammad Sanusi II which was read by the Dan Amar of Kano while thanking the government of Pakistan for the rare honour done to their illustrious son, urged him to continue in his unique service to humanity.

Similarly, Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State remarked that Yakasai expressed strong confidence that Yakasai is the right choice for the position in Africa.

Others are the Emir of Kano, Alh(Dr.)Mohammadu Sanusi II, represented by Dan Amar of Kano and District Head of Bebeji, Dan Adalan Kano and District Head of Tofa, Makaman Kano and District Head of Wudil; diplomatic corps from both Pakistan, Tunisia, Benin Republic among others.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on December 10, 2015.

Monday, 14 December 2015

17 lucky couples win free fertility treatment by FTSF

• Five of them will enjoy free IVF – Ajayi
Fortune smiled on 17 couples who became grand winners of the Fertility Treatment Support Foundation (FTSF) during this year’s edition of the “Little Miracles,” held by FTSF with the support of Nordica Fertility Centre, in Lagos, weekend.

L-R: Clinic Manager, Nordica Fertility Centre, Mrs. Tola Ajayi; winner of the free IVF screening, Mrs. Onwumah; and Managing Director of Nordica Fertility Centre, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi at the raffle draw which produced 17 winning couples, held at the Civic Centre in Lagos at the weekend.
The comfy scene at the Civic Centre, Ozumba Mbadiwe, Victoria Island, Lagos was filled with excitement as the MC announced telephone numbers and names of 17 lucky winners of this year’s contest who will receive free fertility treatment, while five of them are to enjoy free In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) in addition.

The Managing Director of Nordica Fertility Centre, Dr. Ajayi Abayomi, said that the exercise is geared to reduce the burden of infertility in the country, especially for indigent couples who would not normally have access to this type of health care.

Stating this during the raffle draw event, at the Civic Centre, Abayomi added that that over the years, FTSF has delivered free fertility treatment to over 126 less privileged couples, helping them to realise their dream to have their own babies.

The contest which started over a month ago, had entries of over 6,000 couples from various parts of the country, including; Abuja, Kano, Enugu, Rivers, Lagos, among others.

At the end of the draw, 15 couples plus additional two chosen among the audience emerged winners. Names of the winners are: Mrs. Chukwukelu Ifeyinwa, Uju & Mike Mendu, Esther Oke, Nnaemeka, Augustine O Akpoka, Musa Hassan, Ikechukwu Esedebe, Omoregbe, Onyibe, Agbo, Golleng David, Festus Udoh, Obinna Emezi, Arikawe and Ajayi.

According to him, the idea was to create awareness and educate Nigerians on the importance of IVF, apart from assisting indigent couples who have infertility issues, adding that, the beneficiaries would not have to worry about paying for any treatment as the complete cycle would be the responsibility of the foundation.

On how the five couples would be selected out of the lucky 17 that won the contest, he said it would be based purely on medical consideration, as those without complications would be given the slots first.

Continuing, he said one of the major issues still affecting the treatment of IVF in Nigeria was the lack of forums to discuss, adding that the foundation was also set up to address that challenge as well as train and educate doctors, media and the general public on IVF.

“We also want people who have successfully gone through IVF to come out and share their stories. Other couples suffering in silence need to hear these stories so that they can be motivated to seek treatment,” he added.
On his part, the Health Editor, Vanguard Newspaper, Mr. Sola Ogundipe, said a lot of couples were going through the agony of infertility but that the challenge of majority of them was financing of the treatment.

“Any time I write about the issue, about 99 per cent of the calls I receive always bother on cost of treatment. Most people are not accessing it because of the financial implication,” he noted.
He however said that affected couples need not have deep pockets before they can say they are ready, stressing that prioritising the treatment would make them save towards it.

He appealed to those who have benefitted from IVF to come out and share their stories, as it might help other couples. “A lot of couples who have benefitted from IVF are doing a disservice to those who are aspiring to benefit by not talking about it.”

He believes this on the long run would make IVF more affordable as it would demystify the treatment.
Also speaking at the occasion, the officer in charge of Access Bank’s Maternal Health Service Scheme, Mr. Ejike Izejiobi, said the bank has identified financing as the major challenge preventing couples from accessing IVF treatment, hence they decided to put up deliberate initiatives to address it.

“The scheme, which generally targets the health of women, is also aimed at providing loans to couples needing IVF treatments. We can give as high as N4 million, as well as finance a maximum of three different cycles,” adding that accessing the loan was not cumbersome. “All we need to know is that you can pay back so that another couple can benefit from the gesture,” he said.

Omoz Evborokhai, the President Fertility Awareness Advocate Initiative (FAAI); during a question and answer session enjoined everyone to spread the word of hope to couples who are going through challenge of infertility.

He said: “We at FTSF will continue to provide the much needed support system or platform for those couples who are fertility challenged to interact and share their problems.”

Similarly, Engineer Ebenezer Soetan, Vice President, (FAAI) narrated his success story after many years undergoing through the exercise. Soetan further explained that FTSF which was formerly known as EART 

Foundation was established in 2008 as a result of the growing occurrence of infertility in our society today. “The foundation over the years has provided free fertility screening and treatment to over 126 less-privileged couples as her contribution to helping them realize their baby dreams. The foundation also provides educative and enlightenment programmes to the public and the medical professionals.”

 This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 22, 2015. 

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