Thursday, 26 October 2017

Scientists Link HPV To High Esophageal Cancer Risk

By: Chioma Umeha

Scientists have said that being infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) exposes one to high risk of having esophageal cancer. An agency report yesterday said that latest review of previous research linked infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) to a three-fold high chance of esophageal cancer. 

“This doesn’t mean it is present in all (esophageal cancers), but it may be a factor in a certain proportion of cases,” said Dr. Surabhi Liyanage, the study’s lead author. HPV is a very common sexually transmitted virus that is known to cause cervical cancer, anal cancer and some cancers of the reproductive organs and the upper throat. Liyanage, a graduate student at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, said there’s been a lot of debate among researchers about the role of HPV in cancer of the esophagus because most of the studies to date have been small and used disparate methods that make them hard to compare. 

According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 18,000 people – roughly four out of every 100,000 – are diagnosed with esophageal cancer each year in the U.S. and 15,000 Americans die from it annually. Worldwide, esophageal cancer is the eighth most common cancer and responsible for some 400,000 deaths a year, according to World Health Organization data. To get a better handle on the relationship between HPV and esophageal cancer, Liyanage and her colleagues gathered results from all of the studies that have compared patients with the cancer to people without it. 

The studies focused on esophageal squamous cell carcinoma, one type of esophageal cancer that affects the lining of the esophagus. In each study, esophageal tissue samples from cancer patients and from patients without the cancer were examined to see if HPV was present. The 21 studies Liyanage’s group analyzed included 1,223 people with esophageal cancer and 1,415 people without cancer. HPV was found in the esophageal tissue of 35 percent of the cancer patients, compared to 27 percent of the people without esophageal cancer. Taken together, the studies link HPV infection of esophageal tissue to a three-fold greater risk of esophageal cancer, the researchers report in the online, journal PLOS ONE. 

If the general population’s rate of esophageal cancer is 4.4 out of every 100,000 people, a three-fold risk increase would raise those chances to 13.2 out of every 100,000. Two vaccines, Cervarix and Gardasil, have been developed to prevent infection with HPV. Some of Liyanage’s co-authors serve on advisory boards for the companies that make these vaccines and have received research funding from them. If HPV indeed causes esophageal cancer – and that remains to be determined – it’s possible that the vaccines could help prevent the cancer, Liyanage said. 

“However, this needs to be studied further. The benefits of cancer-preventing vaccines are not seen immediately, but after many years following vaccination,” Liyanage wrote in an email to Reuters Health. U.S. health officials would like for 80 per cent of teenage girls to receive the HPV vaccine, but last week they reported that rates of vaccination appear to be lingering closer to 53 percent. Liyanage said there are also other ways to reduce the risk of developing esophageal cancer, including avoiding smoking and excessive drinking. - See more at:

Brown sugar more nutritious than white sugar

Nigerians have been urged to change to brown sugar as their table sugar as it is far more nutritious than the conventional white sugar. The Managing Director of McNichols Consolidated Plc, Chimaraoke Ekpe, made this known during its media briefing in Ogun state recently to mark the company’s 10 years of existence in the country. 

According to him, the enormous health benefits of brown sugar cannot be over emphasized as it contains all natural nutrients directly from sugar cane extract which are vital to the health of the body. “It is free from chemicals like phosphoric acids, sulphuric dioxide as well as preservatives of bleaching agents which often destroys the natural ingredients. “This sugar is in its natural state without its ingredients been compromised. But for the white sugar, even though it is also gotten from sugar cane just like the brown sugar, after the normal extract which presents a brown colour, it is further refined and bleached to become pure white in colour, and in the process, majority of the nutrients are lost, leaving the sugar to contain only carbohydrate and its sweetness,” he explained. 
(R-L) Bolaji Abbas, Finance Manager, McNichols Consolidated Plc, Ogun State;
Ephraim Nwaimo, Human Resources and Administration Manager, McNichols Consolidated Plc,
Benediction Sadare, Representative, S.E Nomudja & Co Secretaries to McNichols Consolidated Plc;
Olusegun Layode, Chairman of the company; Chimaraoke Ekpe, Managing Director/CEO;
Christopher Nwachukwu, Sales Representative and Kingsley Ezem, Sales Representative, all of McNichols Consolidated Plc, during the celebration of the company’s 10 years of existence in the country weekend, in the company’s corporate office in Ogun State. 

He said though the company produces both the white and the brown sugar, it is clearly stated on the labels on the various nutrients in both, so that consumers will make informed choice on which to patronise as their table sugar; “Checking the packs will clearly show that the nutrients listed in the brown sugar are more than the ones in the white sugar.” Ekpe, explained that because of the immense health benefits of the brown sugar, McNichols pioneered its packaging in the country into cubes and granules which are now readily available in stores across the country. According to him, he said, “inasmuch as sugar adds flavour to our meals, we do not promote excess consumption of sugar even though we produce and sell them, because excessive intake of sugar is damaging to the human body, causing health conditions like diabetes.” He, called on the media to assist other advocates of the use of brown sugar in the country such that people will begin to understand that the popularly used white sugar. 

In making sure the sugar produced adds more health value the body, he said both the brown sugar and the white sugar produced by the company are fortified with vitamin A, made into cubes and packed for easy preservation and usage. According to him, apart from production of sugar, McNichols is also one of the leading producers of custards in the country with high premium on its health benefits to Nigerians. He also explained that as the organization is marking its 10th year of existence, they have recorded a number of firsts in the manufacturing of sugar, custards and other products by the company. “We introduced granulated Family Sugar fortified with vitamin A in single serve packs for 5 naira and 10 naira for public consumption. This improved the health and well being of Nigerians, especially the low income earners who were before now forced to buy the unhealthily packed and unbranded sugar popularly called ‘Mallam sugar’ or ‘Tie-Tie sugar’ which in most cases do not contain vitamin A. “We have also opened up a new vista in cube sugar production in Nigeria being the first indigenous company to sustain cube sugar manufacturing in Nigeria. Until we succeeded at it, Nigerians did not believe it was possible for a Nigerian company to succeed in cube sugar manufacturing. 
Brown Sugar
On counterfeiting of its products, Ekpe said though they have not had issues with counterfeiting of its sugar products, but the counterfeiting of custard products has been suspected and this has been a source of worry for the organization. “Just recently, our custard products have been suspected to be counterfeited, so we are investigating it and when we are doubly sure, we shall invite National Agency for Food and Drug Agency and Control, NAFDAC, to investigate further and to bring the culprits to justice.” Ekpe, thanked the National Sugar Development Council for its efforts in pushing for the implementation of Nigeria Sugar Master Plan, especially, the ban on importation of sugar in retail packs. He, therefore called on the incoming federal government to make serious efforts to encourage local industries to create more jobs for young people through putting the sector in the right order. Among things he wants the government to focus on is the strict implementation of the ban on importation of products made outside Nigeria, especially the ban on importation of sugar in retail packs. 

“Most of the imported sugar do not contain vitamin A, which is another reason to discourage its importation into the country. “ He also called on the government to promote laws to protect small and medium enterprises, sustain the current effort to improve access to capital to small and medium enterprise, as well as ensuring of stable power supply. He also thanked staff, shareholders, distributors and consumers for being partners in contributing to the health of Nigerians through McNichols Consolidated Plc.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on April 16,  2015.

Wamco Commended For Pioneering Local Milk Development

 FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria, makers of Peak and Three Crowns milk  was recently commended for pioneering local milk sourcing, development and for improving the lives of Nigerian dairy farmers.

Chief Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), made the commendation recently, while inspecting the local milk collection facilities of FrieslandCampina WAMCO in Fashola village and Iseyin town, Oyo State.

The site is where the company’s state-of-the-art milk collection centres and offices operate under its Dairy Development Programme (DDP).

After inspecting the milk facilities and speaking with members of the host community, Chief Ogbeh who spoke on behalf of the Federal Government said: “It will be wonderful if each Nigerian child can get two pints of fresh Nigerian milk daily.

 “We express the gratitude of government to FrieslandCampina WAMCO for ongoing efforts in this regard. We appreciate and commend your commitment and investment because not many investors are willing to go this far. We are delighted.”

He also observed that FrieslandCampina WAMCO investments have guaranteed steady incomes for the Fulani farmers as well as an improved lifestyle.

 Ogbeh said: “We have seen Fulanis living in a Yoruba community and speaking fluent Yoruba. No fights, no quarrels, no threats of eviction. It is remarkable and FrieslandCampina WAMCO’s intervention should be commended for being instrumental to this.”

While thanking the Minister, Ben Langat, the Managing Director, FrieslandCampina WAMCO, explained: “No other dairy company in Nigeria has started collecting milk locally for production, only FrieslandCampina WAMCO, since 2011.

“Although there is a deficit of good infrastructure  like roads, power and water, still we are grateful to the Minister, FMARD, Sahel and the Oyo State Government for partnering with us.

“So far we have provided 15 boreholes in the communities here in Oyo State. We are in this for the long run. We are investing funds and expertise in artificial insemination, cattle feeding and pasture for high yield in order to raise locally sourced milk to the desired levels for production” Langat said.

Chief Ogbeh assured FrieslandCampina WAMCO of government’s continued partnership, while he affirmed that improved local production of milk was the only panacea to lack of adequate milk supply.
“Indeed we need to improve the breed of our cattle and the Ministry will partner with FrieslandCampina WAMCO to develop the programme. The import bill on milk is very high, while milk consumption among young people is too low. We can’t continue like that because of the effect on their brain and capacity.”

On roads and water, Ogbeh also said, “Let me say from today that FrieslandCampina WAMCO can count on us to be your partners. Something has to be done about the roads not too long from now. We are happy to see the families, women and the community leaders and we will help with more boreholes.”

What You Ought To know About Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection, commonly referred as – ICSI is a simple way of saying “inject sperm into egg.” ICSI is a very effective method to fertilize eggs in the invitro-fertilisation (IVF) lab after they have been aspirated from the female. Its main use is for significant male infertility cases.

IVF with ICSI involves the use of specialized micromanipulation tools and equipment and inverted microscopes that enable embryologists to select and pick up individual sperm in a specially designed ICSI needle.

The needle is carefully advanced through the outer shell of the egg and the egg membrane - and the sperm is injected into the inner part (cytoplasm) of the egg. This usually results in normal fertilization in about 75 to 85 per cent of eggs injected with sperm.

However, first the woman must be stimulated with medications and have an egg retrieval procedure so we can obtain several eggs for in vitro fertilization and ICSI.

Who should be treated with intracytoplasmic sperm injection?
There is no ‘standard of care’ in this field of medicine regarding which cases should have the ICSI procedure and which should not.

Some clinics use it only for severe male factor infertility, and some use it on every case. The large majority of IVF clinics are somewhere in the middle of these 2 extremes.

The thinking about ICSI has changed over time, and experts are now doing more ICSI (as a percentage of total cases) than was done between 10 and 12 years ago. As experts learn more about methods to help couples conceive, the thinking will continue to evolve.

Common reasons used for performing ICSI
These include; severe male factor infertility that do not want donor sperm insemination. ICSI is also used on couples with infertility with sperm concentrations of less than 15 to 20 million per millilitre and on males with  low sperm motility - less than 35 per cent; very poor sperm morphology (subjective - specific cut-off value is debatable)

ICSI can also be used where there have been  previous IVF with no fertilization - or a low rate of fertilization (low percentage of mature eggs that were normally fertilized).

Sometimes it is used for couples that have a low yield of eggs at egg retrieval. In this scenario, ICSI is being used to try to get a higher percentage of eggs fertilized than with conventional insemination of the eggs (mixing eggs and sperm together).

How is ICSI performed?
The mature egg is held with a specialized holding pipette.
A very delicate, sharp and hollow needle is used to immobilize and pick up a single sperm.
This needle is then carefully inserted through the zona (shell of the egg) and in to the center (cytoplasm) of the egg.

The sperm is injected in the cytoplasm and the needle is removed.
The eggs are checked the next morning for evidence of normal fertilization.

Fertilization and pregnancy success rates with ICSI
IVF with ICSI success rates vary according to the specifics of the individual case, the ICSI technique used, the skill of the individual performing the procedure, the overall quality of the laboratory, the quality of the eggs, and the embryo transfer skills of the infertility specialist physician.

Sometimes IVF with ICSI is done for “egg factor” cases - low ovarian reserve situations. This is when there is either a low number, or low “quality “of eggs (or both).

In such cases, ICSI fertilization and pregnancy success rates tend to be lower.
This is because the main determinant of IVF success is the quality of the embryos.
The quality of the eggs is a crucial factor determining quality and viability of embryos.

In some cases, assisted hatching is done on the embryos prior to transfer, in order to maximize chances for pregnancy.

Enugu Women Embrace Exclusive Breastfeeding

To say that Mrs. Chinedu Chukwuma, an Enugu State indigene is a happy woman may seem as an understatement.   The healthy look of the two children of the 20-year-old mother easily gives away her source of happiness.  You could see the bond between Chinedu and her three-month-old baby, Ebelechukwu, as she cuddles her, all thanks to exclusive breastfeeding. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) explains, “Exclusive breastfeeding means that the infant receives only breast milk. No other liquids or solids are given - not even water - with the exception of oral rehydration solution, or drops/syrups of vitamins, minerals or medicines.”

For Chinedu, exclusive breastfeeding is not a new practice. She has done it before and had seen the benefits. She did not need any persuasion to adopt it for Eberechukwu, her second child. Apart from immunisation, she has had no reason to be shuttling between hospital and home unlike some mothers.

Chinedu told Independent during an investigative visit to Enugu that she came to know about exclusive breastfeeding while attending antenatal classes for her first baby. “We were told that it is a very good practice. I also did it for my first baby for six months and even this baby; I will also do it for him,” she said.

WHO recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods, while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or beyond. 

To promote the exercise, the Federal Government integrated education on exclusive breastfeeding into the antenatal programmes at the Primary Health Care(PHC) Centres for nursing mothers to be taught about its benefit.

Only recently Federal Government pledged its commitment towards supporting breastfeeding and improving funding to scale-up nutrition and breastfeeding practices across the country.

Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari, wife of the President, disclosed this in Abuja, during the Launch of 2016 Lancet Series on Breastfeeding and High - level Policy Dialogue on Promoting Breastfeeding for National Development in Nigeria.

Mrs. Buhari, represented by the wife of Niger State governor, Dr. Amina Abubakar Bello, informed that Federal Government would prioritise breastfeeding as part of the efforts to roll out the National Strategic plan of Action for Nutrition.

Ngozi Onuora, a Nutritionist at UNICEF at the Port Harcourt office of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Nigeria, addressing journalists recently at media training on child nutrition, said that exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality.

Onuora explained that this is due to the protection it gives the baby against common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea or pneumonia, and helps for quicker recovery during illness. She said: “Good nutrition is the bedrock of child survival, health and development. According to her, well-nourished children are better able to grow, learn, participate in and contribute to their communities. It also makes them resilient in the face of disease, disaster and other crisis.”

Mrs. Igbe Assumpta, a 26-year-old mother also attested to the benefits of practising exclusive breastfeeding. Though a student, she got the first information about exclusive breastfeeding from her elder sister who told her how beneficial it is before she started antenatal.

Igbe said, “Exclusive breastfeeding boosts my baby’s intelligent quotient, as she is very sharp. Even my friends who are not doing exclusive breastfeeding used to tell me that my baby is very sharp. My baby is also strong and healthy.

“Since I gave birth to her, I haven’t taken her to the hospital. It saves me money. My baby is five months and two weeks and I will complete the six months exercise. I will still practise it for my next baby. I also advise other women to go for exclusive breastfeeding.”

As for Celestina Nwankwo, a 35-years-old farmer and mother of six children, the difference between her children who were exclusively breastfed and those who were not is clear.

She told Independent, “I have done it for two of my children and I saw the difference. They don’t fall ill often; they do not go to toilet anyhow. My advice to mothers is that they should try and adopt exclusive breastfeeding because it is very good.

“I did not do exclusive breastfeeding for all my children. There is a big difference between those who benefitted from it and others who did not. The ones that were exclusively breastfed are very intelligent and are closer to me,” Celestina said.

The 35-years-old farmer also said she heard about it in the Health Centre during antenatal.
According to Mrs. Monica Igbofunanya, the Education Officer at Primary Health Centre (PHC) Agwu Local Government of Enugu State, the main challenge facing nursing mothers in the area is the mother- in-laws who try to persuade their daughter-in-laws to give pap or water to the children.

She said, “The major challenge is mother-in-laws who insist on feeding the baby with other foods and water after they have been delivered. I call most of them during their ANC period to counsel them with their husbands.”

To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for six months, WHO and UNICEF recommend initiation of exclusive breastfeeding within the first hour of life, that is, the infant receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water.

WHO further recommends that breastfeeding should be done on demand and that is as often as the child wants, day and night, and bars the use of bottles, teats or pacifiers.

However, despite how important and beneficial exclusive breastfeeding is, many women do not adopt it. WHO report has it that currently, less than 40 per cent of infants who are less than six months of age are exclusively breastfed worldwide. Many women go for artificial breast milk thereby leaving many children without necessary protection in their early stages of life.

Experts are worried given the Nigerian situation where many families hardly have enough to eat, not to talk of buying sufficient milk for their newborn babies.

Some women, out of ignorance or a show of affluence, introduce artificial breast milk to their babies within the first six months. Many of them claim that breast milk alone cannot satisfy their babies.
Sadly, some health workers even encourage mothers to give their babies artificial milk soon after delivery. In some hospitals where artificial milk is forbidden for new born babies, some health workers secretly help the mothers feed their babies with artificial milk.

Again, some mothers and mothers-in-law make things difficult for their daughters and daughters-in-law who want to breastfeed their babies exclusively. They still regale in the old tradition that new born babies must be fed with water which they believe the baby needs most to be alive. Refusal to abide by such tradition often results to misunderstanding.

Meanwhile, some working class women, out of circumstances, are forced not to breastfeed their babies exclusively for the recommended six months.
Some organisations, especially private ones, give six weeks maternity leave and do not allow the women to come to work with their new born babies. Many organisations do not have crèche for new born babies, thereby forcing them to either stop breastfeeding abruptly or combining breast milk with artificial milk.

Corroborating earlier views, Dr. Chris Osa Isokpunwu of the Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja, told journalists during a two-day Media Dialogue on Leveraging Resources for Child Malnutrition in Nigeria that exclusive breastfeeding for six months prevents childhood illnesses like diarrhoea, infection

He said that exclusive breastfeeding prevents childhood obesity and the associated non- communicable diseases in adulthood, adding that the mother only needs to be adequately fed on normal family diet.

Isokpunwu revealed that “it is cheaper when compared to what is spent on baby formula, hospital bills, energy cost of boiling water and sterilisation of bottles, cups and spoons, and above all, the consequences of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases later in life.”

To curb child malnutrition, WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding of infants for six months as the breast milk contains all the nutritional value a child needs for proper growth and continuous breastfeeding and adequate complementary foods until 24 months.

The basic drivers of malnutrition are poverty, failure in governance, institutional weaknesses, gender issues, the underlying causes are food insecurity, inadequate care, access to health care services, while the immediate causes of malnutrition are; inappropriate food intake and diseases.

With Nigeria currently recording a huge number of malnourished children, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) might just be affected years from now as malnutrition accounts for low Intelligent Quotient (IQ) of an individual.

Every single day in Nigeria, malnutrition accounts for 2,300 under-five deaths and 145 women of child bearing age and this makes the country the second largest contributor to the under-five and maternal mortality rate in the world.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) data said annually, up to one million children die before the age of five in Nigeria, 50 per cent of the cause is undernutrition, and 26 per cent are neonatal deaths and figures by World Bank suggests that Nigeria loses over US$1.5 billion in GDP annually to vitamin and mineral deficiencies alone.

Also a survey by UNICEF indicates that malnutrition does not just make the child stunted, wasted, it also prevents the child from achieving his potential and children who are malnourished in their first two years of life lose 11cm of potential height.

Nigerian Breweries Introduces First Zobo Flavoured Alcoholic Drink

In line with its social responsibility to guarantee consumers’ satisfaction, Nigeria Breweries Plc, one of  the foremost brewer in the country has raised the bar in the Ready-to-Drink (RTD) market with the launch of “Ace Desire,” the first zobo-flavoured alcoholic drink.

Marketing Director, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Mr. Franco Maria Maggi, explained to Journalists at the launch in Lagos on Thursday, that Ace Desire is a sophisticated blend of spirit, natural Hibiscus or zobo extracts, being the traditional beverage produced from Hibiscus leaves.

“This rich combination of a balanced mix of spirit and Hibiscus extracts contains 5.5 per cent alcohol, and offers a tingling sensation and rich aroma”, he said.

 According to him, Ace Desire, packaged in a 33cl glass bottle, stands out amongst other products on the Ready-to-Drink category.

He added that Nigerian Breweries, “the house of quality” has delivered on yet another promise to delight consumers with the introduction of Ace Desire.

“The brand’s ambition is to lead in the Nigerian RTD category by establishing itself as the relentless pioneer of innovation”, Maggi said, while also promising that the product will be available in outlets across the country over the next few weeks.

Mr. Franco Maria Maggi disclosed that the extensions of the Ace brand have always been informed by the need to satisfy different consumer taste profiles that evolve and change over time.

It would be recalled that Nigerian Breweries launched the Ace brand in December 2014 with an apple-flavoured alcoholic drink called Ace Passion.

In March 2015, Ace Roots, a spirit mixed alcoholic drink made from African herbs and fruits joined the Ace family, while Ace Rhythm, a mix of Vodka and Citrus was unveiled in November 2015.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Maitama Sule’s Death; Pharmacists Condoles With Kano

Pharmacists under the auspices of Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), have condoled with the people and government of Kano State over the demise of the late diplomat and elder statesman, Alhaji Maitama Sule.

In a letter jointly signed by Pharm. Ahmed Yakasai, the President of PSN and Pharm. Gbologade Iyiola, PSN’s National Secretary, PSN described the late Sule as a nationalist and man of peace with high commitment to the unity of the country.

The letter read: “PSN will always remember him as a great Statesman and Nationalist personified as a man of peace who was highly committed to the unity of Nigeria.

“He was a man of faith blessed by Almighty Allah with a wonderful voice, outstanding eloquence and a good sense of humour.

 “A man of unparalleled dignity who served without being tainted with scandal as commonly found in our leaders.

“Alhaji Maitama Sule’s death was a colossal loss not only to his immediate family. He would be sorely missed by the family members, friends, associates and teeming Nigerians.”

Friday, 8 September 2017

FG, NARD Ends In Deadlock

Doctors Insist On Payment Before Resumption

The doctors, operating under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors, after the meeting, which began at about 2:30pm on Wednesday and ended at 12:30am on Thursday, insisted that their salaries must be paid before they will call off the strike.

FG, NARD in new terms of settlement as Doctors insist on payment before resumption

After about 10 hours of negotiation, striking resident doctors in the country in the wee hours of Thursday signed a new Memorandum of Terms of Settlement with the Federal Government.

The doctors, operating under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors, after the meeting, which began at about 2:30pm on Wednesday and ended at 12:30am on Thursday, insisted that their salaries must be paid before they will call off the strike.

It was gathered that the Federal Government negotiation team, which was led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, promised that the doctors would receive their bank alerts on Thursday (today).

The leadership of NARD will then meet on Friday (tomorrow) to decide on the next line of action.

According to a communique of the meeting, signed by all stakeholders in the health sector and released by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, the meeting is expected to reconvene on November 2, 2017 to examine the process expected to have been followed through by the two disputing parties.

The Memorandum of Terms of Settlement reads: “A meeting was held on September 6, 2017, following the strike embarked upon by the members of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) on September 4, 2017. The meeting considered the Memorandum of Terms of Settlement dated August 31, 2017 which was signed by the Parties at the end of the conciliation meeting held at the instance of the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment to address the 6 – point issues of concern to the members of NARD.

“In view of the ongoing strike by members of NARD, an emergency meeting was convened by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment to address areas of dissatisfaction in the Settlement by NARD. The meeting noted NARD’s Position that despite the signed Memorandum of Terms of Settlement, the industrial action by its members emanated from a distrust of Government commitment to execute its own end of the Terms of Settlement. The Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment expressed displeasure that NARD members embarked on strike inspite of the signed collectively agreed Terms of Settlement dated August 31, 2017, and conciliation in progress in line with the provisions of Section 5 of the Trade Disputes Act, CAP. T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004. The issues of concern to NARD were therefore re-addressed as follows:

1) Failure To Pay Our Salary Shortfall Of 2016 And January To May 2017

Acknowledging the need for the Resident Doctors to receive their full salaries, the meeting deliberated extensively on the accounting difficulties encountered in the disbursement of salaries to non – regular payrolls labeled ‘Non Regular Allowances’ as against regular payrolls covered by the IPPIS platform.

“The meeting further noted that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) did receive one Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) of the sum of #13.2 Billion to address the shortfalls in Public Sector including payment of the salaries of affected doctors in Federal Tertiary Health Institutions (FTHI). After due considerations by the meeting especially of the document submitted by NARD on “Salary Shortfall”, it was agreed –

i. That the OAGF has to employ checks and balances in disbursing Government funds. Accordingly, though verifications had been done by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), there was still need to carry out authentications. Payment would therefore be made directly to the affected FTHI for Doctors and Staff that have been authenticated, and additionally, a soft copy would be forwarded to the Parent Ministry (FMoH), Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, CMDs, NARD and NMA;

ii. That the FTHIs on list A of the document submitted by NARD that have been authenticated by OAGF were expected to receive payments on or before Friday, September 8, 2017 as OAGF tendered a mandate containing 8 FTHI and pledged to forward an additional list of the remaining FTHI to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for necessary action between September 7 – 8, 2017;

iii. That the 2nd batch (list B) Mandate will be treated as soon as their AIE is sent to OAGF since NARD claimed that PICA had verified the shortfalls.

2) Failure To Rectify The Salary Shortfall From August 2017

The meeting noted and agreed with NARD demand for a 100% payment of salaries to its members. However it was observed that the shortfalls were basically experienced by those not on the IPPIS platform termed “Non Regular Allowances/Payments”. The challenges on this issue were discussed extensively and it was noted that the OAGF was currently capturing the Paramilitary Staff on IPPIS Platform and would be ready to deal with members of NARD by first week of October precisely October 4, 2017. In this regard, it is expected that the 100% payment will be implemented as from October 2017, as September salaries were already at advanced stage of preparation. However, any shortfall that occurs will be treated together with that of August, 2017.

The role of the Cash Management Department and PICA in the payment of the Non Regular Allowances (Non IPPIS), and the determination to find a permanent solution to the issue of salary shortfalls was acknowledged. The meeting resolved that the Honourable Ministers of Labour and Employment, and Health together with the Budget Office of the Federation and one member each of NARD and NMA would discuss the matter with the Honourable Ministers of Finance (HMF), and Budget and Planning (HMBNP) as soon as Honourable Minister of Finance returns to the country.

NARD was also assured that notwithstanding IPPIS coming into existence in October, 2017, the arrears accumulated in salary shortfalls on the Non Regular Platform, would be paid based on the old payment regime and liquidated.

3) Failure To Circularize House Officers’ Entry Point

The meeting noted that since the Memorandum of Terms of Settlement of August 31, 2017 was executed, progress had been made by the Government. The FMoH and NSIWC had made a computation of the financial implications for the House Officers’ Pay amounting to approximately N422, 564,729.34. The end of October, 2017, was given as deadline to entirely solve the monetary problem of House Officers entry step by capturing it in the 2018 budget. The NSIWC promised to forward a memo to the Presidency following the receipt of a letter of demand from the FMoH and would issue the relevant circular immediately a favourable response is received by the NSIWC from the Presidency.

4) Failure To Correct The Stagnation Of Promotion Of Our Members And Properly Place Them On Their Appropriate Grade Level

After extensively discussing the issue by all parties, it was concluded that while the Appeal filed by the FMoH in the Appeal Court against the Judgment of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) on skipping is pending; skipping for doctors should however continue as currently applied for other health workers. Hospitals that are yet to implement skipping for doctors are to commence. Also, there should be no “same scale” promotion except at the terminal grade level and in accordance with the Public Service Rules. Payment for skipping shall stop if the Appeal Court invalidates the payments.

5) Failure To Enroll And Capture Our Members On The Integrated Personnel Payment Information System (IPPIS

On this issue, the meeting concluded that item v of the Memorandum of Settlement dated August 31, 2017 should be adopted and implemented. Item v under reference provides as follows – “Based on the information given by the members of NARD, it was noted that only 18 Federal Tertiary Health Institutions had so far submitted their Nominal Roll. The meeting concluded that NARD members should be on the IPPIS platform and that the CMDs as well as the MDs should be requested by the FMoH to submit their Nominal Roll to the Office of the Accountant General of The Federation (OAGF) and copy to the FMoH and FML&E on or before September 15, 2017. It was agreed that all Resident Doctors should be captured on IPPIS platform by the end of October 2017.” OAGF confirmed the receipt of submissions from additional 9 FTHIs as at September 6, 2017.

6) Failure To Budget, Deduct And Remit Both The Employer And Employees’ Contributions Our Pension To Our Retirement Savings Account Since 2013

The meeting admitted and considered a letter by the Federal Ministry of Finance Ref. No. OHMF/SPO/NARD/289/VOL.1 dated June 8, 2017 on the subject “Re-Stoppage of Budgetary Provision And Deduction at Source For the Contributory Pension Scheme For Resident Doctors” which reaffirmed the earlier position taken that Resident Doctors are entitled to the Contributory Pension Scheme. After due discussions, item vi of the Memorandum of Terms of Settlement of August 31, 2017 was re-affirmed and adopted for implementation. The item vi states that “…NARD members are on Pensionable appointment and as such the FMoH in conjunction with OAGF and Budget Office of the Federation (BOF) should take necessary steps to ensure that adequate budgetary allocations are made to cover the Pension requirements of NARD members. Furthermore, FMoH should issue a letter in that regard to the Head Civil Service of the Federation who would correspond with the Budget Office of the Federation for necessary action, as the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) had in a letter of February 12, 2015, Ref.PENCOM/INSP/C&E/CCPA/66/15/1167 to the Honourable Minister of Health affirmed that members of NARD are ‘Employees’. The letter went further to define an employee as any person employed in the service of the Federation, the FCT, a Government of a State of Nigeria, Local Government Council or private company or organization or firm.

7)  The Federal Government will appeal to State Governments and Organisations that owe salary shortfalls/emoluments to Health Workers to make genuine efforts to liquidate these arrears in the spirit of revamping the Health Care System in the country.

8)  The meeting agreed that NARD National Officers are to present the outcome of the re-negotiated Memorandum of Terms of Settlement to an emergency meeting of its members by Friday September 8, 2017 with a view to suspending the strike once there is evidence of payment of the Mandate as presented to the meeting, to the affected Institutions.

9)  No member of NARD will be victimised as a result of this strike if suspended, after the Emergency Meeting of Friday, September 8, 2017

10)  This Conciliation Meeting is adjourned to reconvene on Thursday, November 2, 2017.”

Those who signed the new terms of settlement included the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Prof. Mike O. Ogirima; the President of NARD, Dr. Onyebueze John; The Deputy Director (EXP) Social, BOF, Gideon S. Mitu; the Acting Director (IPPIS), Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, Olufehinti Olusegun; the Chairman of the Committee of Chief Medical Director and Medical Directors of Federal Health and Tertiary Institutions, Prof. Thomas Agan; and the Director (Inspectorate), OAGF, M. K. Usman.

Others include the Permanent Secretary, General Services Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Dr. R. P. Ugo; the Permanent Secretary, Service Welfare Office, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Didi Walson Jack; and the Chairman of NSIWC, High Chief R. O. Egbule.

Others are the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole; the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Prof. Stephen Ocheni; and Ngige.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Professionals Canvass Mental Health Promotion For Development

·           Abayomi Receives Award of Excellence In Medical Leadership

Health professionals have called for the promotion of mental health in the country especially among aspirants to leadership positions.

This, they explained, is to ensure that they have the qualities and ability to pursue the good of the society. They made the call during the during the just-concluded Annual Scientific Conference And Gathering organised by the Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL), Idi-Araba, Lagos.

Speakers at the conference with the theme, “Mental Health In a Recessed Economy,” and sub-theme, “Role of Academics in Emotional Health Promotion,” linked general well-being of individuals to their state of mental health.

Among those who canvassed for this recently was Professor Jude Uzoma Ohaeri, a Professor of Psychiatric, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Enugu State.

In a lecture entitled, “Mental Health Promotion As A National Development Strategy: The Role of Professionals in the Field,” Prof. Ohaeri observed that it was important for leadership aspirants to undergo mental health check to confirm that they have critical human traits that make for successful leadership.

The Professor of Psychiatrics, said that that the World Health Organisation (WHO) defined mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” In analysing the WHO’s definition, Prof. Ohaeri said that there are two aspects that stress on wellbeing and absence of disease.

He noted that people who have disease are neither the problem of the country nor patients that have psychiatric problem. He said, “The problem of Nigeria is that people who are deficient in aspects of humanity seek this power and they rule us at whatever level, whether as class teacher or whatever that is the problem.”

“So my lecture says we have to do something which is called mental health promotion in order  to make sure that people who aspire to such heights are people who are in general society, have these elements of humanity that make for the foundations for flourishing of the individuals and flourishing of society.
“That is the branch of my talk really that the law bars you from contesting from any leadership positions  if you are deficient in altruism, kindness and in good neighbourliness, even if you are not depressed as you will bring all those deficiencies into whatever you are asked to do and that is the problem we’re facing.”

On the theme of the conference, Professor Adeola Onokoya, a Professor of Orthomology at College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL) Nigeria, said, “It’s no news that our economy is in recession or if you like to use the word depression and we know that recently we’ve had a lot of unpalatable news about members of the community, children, students and people committing suicide.

“There is no doubt that the theme is linked with what is happening in the country and all the things human beings would require for a healthy living for your mind to be at rest. “We’re just trying to look at mental health promotion as a role for everybody. This is because everybody is affected.

“Even research has shown that mental health is the most common form of ill-health. About one in four of individuals is affected in a lifetime by mental health. So it is a topic that we need to educate people on; let people be aware that there are interventions that could be used to proffer solutions for people who may require it.

“It’s important for us to let people know because there are some people who suffer from depression and actually they do not know because of what is called somatisation,” he stated.
Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, Managing Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, who was the special guest of honour on the occasion, while speaking also said that there is an intersection between infertility and mental health.

“This is because of the high premium we place on child bearing, people who don’t have children feel like something is missing,” Dr. Abayomi explained. “When people are stretched and not relieved it could lead to depression which is an ill- health that can translate into other serious mental issues. So procreation is really an essential factor for one’s mental health stability,” he added.

WHO says that health is not just the absence of infirmity but a state of well-being.
Dr. Ajayi also stated that there is treatment for infertility like any other medical disorder, while we are not saying that people should not go to prayer houses, we however advise that they seek medical attention.

He also noted that the job of a doctor as an administrator involves looking after so many people at the same time, but most doctors seem to be more concerned about the clinical work and does not really bother much about the business angle. He therefore called for more training of doctors to be better administrators.

One of the major highpoint of the event was the conferment of ‘Award of Excellence In Medical Leadership’ on D.r Ajayi. Conferring the award on him was  ‘Award of Excellence In Medical Leadership’ Prof Ben Oghojafor, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Management Services who said that Dr. Ajayi was being recognised for his leading role in general health through fertility management in the country.
The award to Dr. Ajayi and his fertility centre is the second one in a month as his clinic also won one of this year’s Nigerian Healthcare Excellence Awards (NHEA).

Contending with five other hospitals nationwide, the 2017 award was presented to Nordica Fertility Centre at the annual event which celebrates distinguished personalities and organisations who have contributed immensely to the growth of the Nigerian health sector.

Increase Funding For Family Planning To Achieve SDGs

To control rapid population growth, its associated problems and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), stakeholders have called for increased budgetary allocation to family planning as Nigeria joins the rest of the work to mark 2017 World Population Day (WPD).

Speaking on this year’s WPD theme, “Family Planning, Birth Spacing: Empowering People, Developing Nations,” Chief  Eze Duruiheoma, Chairman, National Population Commission (NPC), said that family planning and birth spacing are measures to attain a sustainable family size by way of allowing for adequate intervals between births, employing especially the use of contraception.

Duruiheoma said, “Family planning is not only about saving lives but also empowering people and developing nations. “Family and birth spacing are personal decisions but their profound implications on health, economic and social wellbeing of the society are far reaching.
“That is why simple individual decision has become a developmental agenda that must be addressed on a sustainable.”

Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass that of the U.S. by 2050, according to new UN projections that the West African country could be the world’s third most populous country by the end of this century. The 2013 NDHS results indicate that the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is 5.5 births per woman. This means that, on average, Nigerian women would give birth to 5.5 children by the end of their childbearing years.

Meanwhile, the goal of the National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development is to achieve a reduction in the total fertility rate of at least 0.6 children every five years according to statistics from National Population Commission, 2004.

In a report by Matt Lesso on the Borgen project, Nigeria is struggling with over-population and most residents of cities like Lagos live in severely overcrowded slums. Many houses and apartments consist of just one room to house entire families. More than 50 people can share a bathroom, sink and living space.

Youth unemployment in urban areas is around 50 percent. This has fueled an increase in crime which is rampant in many cities. This high level of youth unemployment has also helped fuel the rise of militant groups like Boko Haram.

This is even as Nigeria’s fertility rate is approximately 5.5 children per woman that is a woman can still give birth to five or more children regardless of the means of providing for them.

Many fear this rise in population growth will fuel poverty, hunger and civil strife. But, the problems will be particularly acute in Nigeria, according to experts. While some view this increase in population as a potential for more economic growth and status as a global hegemony, many others fear the population boom will cause the country to collapse.

With family planning population growth can be controlled starting with individual family deciding how many children it can cater for, when to give birth to them and how to space them.

Dr. Omasanjuwa Edun, the Lagos State Team Leader of the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI) said that family planning is designed to help the family have quality life contrary to speculations that it was instituted to discourage procreation. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Family planning reinforces people’s rights to determine the number and spacing of their children.

Family planning can be used to reduce maternal mortality which is currently at 555/100,000 live births in Nigeria (NDHS 2013), the world health body says. By preventing unintended pregnancy, family planning /contraception prevents deaths of mothers and children. With a well-planned family, parents are also able to take adequate care of children they already have.

Research has shown that many Nigerians have negative perception of Family planning. Many have the misconception that family planning is all about reducing expected number of children to be born using risky medical interventions that can potentially cause major complication in women such as infertility.

However, experts stress that family planning simply provides a safe, affordable and effective way to have children when you want them, and provide a period of ‘rest’ for mothers in between pregnancies.

Commenting on this recently, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, Wellbeing Foundation founder, explained: “Family planning information and contraception is a fundamental human right, empowering women to decide when and where to have a child, and how many children they wish to bear, according to their circumstances.

“We recommend that mothers space their childbirth by 1000 days, to better sustain the health and socio-economic wellbeing of mother, child and family.”

To provide family planning services, experts insist that the government needs to; increase funding for Family Planning and ensure increase in budgetary allocations for FP/CBS in the state to cover consumables, supplies and infrastructure, commodity, logistics, management, training of skilled providers and demand creation.

Global World Population Day is celebrated on July 11 every year. It is a global day to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues and this year’s theme is emphasising how access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right. It is also central to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

How Exercise, Weight and Age Affect Fertility

Exercise should be encouraged for both women and men who are gearing up to try to conceive.
However, excessive, strenuous exercise in women may result in disruption of the ovulation cycle, thereby affecting her periods. Normal exercise has not been linked to miscarriages (loss of pregnancy), but certain forms of exercise (for example, high-impact or contact sports or scuba diving) should be avoided in pregnancy. In men, too much exercise may cause a low sperm count.

Weight and fertility
A healthy diet is very important for women who are looking for a baby. Being overweight can affect a woman’s fertility and can cause complications during pregnancy. A woman who is overweight and who is planning a pregnancy would be advised to lose weight before she conceives.

Obesity can affect fertility by causing hormonal imbalances and problems with ovulation, particularly for obese women having their first baby. Obesity is associated with poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of infertility. PCOS is a common hormonal condition especially in infertile women, affecting up to one in five women of reproductive age. Early diagnosis, living a healthy lifestyle and treatment can help optimise fertility.

If a mother is obese, it increases the risk of pregnancy complications and health problems for the baby. Risks associated with obesity in pregnancy include miscarriage, hypertension, pre-eclampsia , gestational diabetes, infection, blood clotting, need for induction of labour, Caesarean birth and stillbirth.

Babies born to overweight or obese mothers are more likely than those born to healthy-weight mothers to become obese children and adults, and to have more health problems. Weight loss with anorexia or bulimia can disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle and thereby reduce her chances of becoming pregnant.

Being underweight can also reduce a woman’s fertility. It can cause hormone imbalances that affect ovulation and therefore a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. Compared to healthy weight women, underweight women are more than twice as likely to take more than a year to get pregnant. Having a BMI under 18.5 is considered ‘underweight.’

Figures about women, weight and fertility
• Women who are overweight or obese have less chance of getting pregnant overall. They are also more likely than women of healthy weight to take more than a year to get pregnant.
• The risk of pre-eclampsia doubles in overweight women and triples in obese women. Overweight women have twice the risk of gestational (pregnancy-related) diabetes and obese women eight times the risk, compared with women of healthy weight.
• A woman who is obese is more than twice as likely to have a miscarriage as a woman of healthy weight. There is twice the risk that her baby will not survive.
• Infants born to obese women are more likely to be large for their age, need neonatal intensive care or have a congenital abnormality.

For women with diabetes, it is especially important to plan for pregnancy. If possible, it is recommended to review your diabetes and your general health with your doctor, at least three to six months before trying to conceive.

Age and fertility
A woman’s peak fertility is in her early 20s. At age 35 and beyond (and particularly after 40), the likelihood of becoming pregnant reduces. As men age, levels of testosterone fall, and the volume and concentration of sperm change.

Healthy couples younger than 30 years who have regular sexual intercourse and use no contraception have a 25 per cent  to 30 per cent chance of achieving pregnancy each month.

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