Saturday, 19 May 2018

FG Should Not Hesitate To Invest In Nutrition – Kanu

•Nation With Many Malnourished Children Suffers Underdevelopment

Ms. Chioma Blessing Kanu, is the Programme Manager, Civic Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), a non-profit organisation that is championing efforts towards better legislations to improve lives of people in many areas, especially, maternal and child health. Kanu who is a passionate advocate of improved maternal and child nutrition interventions, in an interview with CHIOMA UMEHA, calls for increased and timely release of funds by government at all levels to promote maternal and child health.

What is the current situation of malnutrition in Nigeria?
Recent surveys have shown that 57 per cent of children are malnourished and 41.7 per cent of them are severely stunted in Kaduna state. Micronutrients deficiency such as Vitamin A and iodine is also common among these children (27.8 per cent) due to poor intake.
Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can lead to stunted growth.
The main indicator for malnutrition is stunting- when children are too short for their age. Stunted children have poor physical growth which is irreversible and associated with poor brain development and reduced school and work performance. The Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) Results of 2013, reported prevalence of stunting at 56.6 per cent, underweight 57.6 per cent, and Wasting 42 per cent in children under five years old. This means Kaduna with 56.6 per cent of stunting has the third highest number of stunted children under-5 years of age in Nigeria after Kebbi with 61 per cent and Katsina and Jigawa with 59 per cent respectively.
Appropriate actions must be taken without delay to drastically reduce the incidences.
What are effective ways of addressing malnutrition in the country? 
So to address this issue, there are many interventions from donor agencies that require government commitment.
For instance, Nigeria has a national strategy plan of action on malnutrition, which has been adopted, but it is yet to start implementation.
NSPAN are well articulated plan and if properly addressed and implemented, we will not have cases of malnutrition any more.
But, since 2012 that the document was produced, it was just adopted by 2015; we are yet to start implementation this year.
There is need for effective implementation of the National Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition (NSPAN 2014-2019) at every level, with emphasis on maternal and child nutrition; increased funding for maternal and child nutrition at the Ministries of Health, Agriculture and other relevant sectors all the States, especially, those with endemic malnutrition. There is need for budgetary allocation and timely release of funds for maternal and Child nutrition practices and interventions, at state and local government levels.
Government needs to step up actions in this area. The government needs to be more responsible, look at the counterpart funding that donor partners are providing and augment it. It is very important for the government to make up for the difference in the donor funding. For instance, The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has counterpart arrangement with the federal government, but it might interest you to know that most of the time Nigerian government will not fulfill their commitment in providing funds. To fulfill their commitment, that is providing allocation in the budget is different from release the fund, so that counterpart funding cannot be accessed, unless the money is released.
For instance, if UNICEF is contributing 75 per cent of funds for nutrition, and need government to contribute 25 per cent; if government does not release the 25 per cent that is allocated for nutrition under the budget, then the country cannot access the 75 per cent from UNICEF. So those are the issues that need focus in the media. That is why we urging the media to enlighten the government.
Malnutrition damages the brain of a child in such a way that he will not be able to compete favourably with another child of his age. He might not be able to pass his examination that is one of the effects of malnourishment. A nation that has many malnourished children cannot think far, they cannot be ahead in time of development, those are the issues, there is a lot to gain by funding nutrition, so government should not hesitate in investing in it. 
There have been increased clamouring recently, for a policy on nutrition, how will this affect the pregnant woman?
Adequate food and optimal nutritional status are the foundation blocks for the building of healthy, secure lives, and thus form the basis for development in any nation.
Nigeria has a high burden of malnutrition. This comes in the form of undernutrition, over-nutrition, Mineral and Vitamin deficiencies. 37 per cent of children who are under the age of five are malnourished, while about 53 per cent of the death of this group of children is attributed to malnutrition in Nigeria. Malnutrition among children also constitutes 50 per cent of the underlying causes of many communicable and non-communicable life-threatening diseases, in addition to the high level morbidity and mortality in the State.

What is the relationship between adequate feeding of a pregnant woman and the first 1000 days of her baby?
Adequate feeding is very important for the pregnant woman because which should cover the first 1000 days of her baby, even as a fetus. The counting of the 1000 days begins from the first day the woman conceives to the time the baby is two-years-old. The quality of nutrition within this period is very crucial in the development of the baby as whatever a mother consumes is taken up by the fetus in the womb.
So it is very important for a woman to ensure that what she eats during pregnancy changes as this affects her baby’s development. A mother’s food at this stage should be more nutritious as this is critical to the health of her baby.
If a malnourished mother gives birth to a child, there is a high tendency that her child will be predisposed to low birth weight which contributes to infant mortality.
Similarly, a woman who is malnourished has high risk of predisposal to maternal mortality. In Nigeria, one in 13 women dies during pregnancy or childbirth, and 12 per cent of children die before reaching the age of five; every 10 minutes, one woman dies from conditions associated with childbirth; and only 39 per cent births take place with assistance of medically trained personnel, coupled with the scarcity of skilled attendants, absence of personnel among other factors impede the effectiveness of health services in the country.

Building Collapse: NMA Condoles With Deceased Families

By Chioma Umeha
A faction of the Lagos Chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), on Monday condoled with the families of the deceased of a partially collapsed building at the Highway Police Barracks, Ikeja.
Dr. Omojowolo Olubunmi, the Factional Chairman, said in a statement, that the association also extended condolence to Mr. Fatai Owoseni, the state Commissioner of Police, and the entire Police family.
According to online reports, the incident occurred in the early hours of Sunday, December 25, in Lagos.
Mr. AdeshinaTiamiyu, General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), had confirmed the death of a Police sergeant and a civilian.
The reports said that one of the deceased, simply identified as Danjuma, and the other, lost their lives after the toilet and the staircase of the building collapsed.
“We also want to wish those injured speedy recovery; NMA Lagos will be ready to help in any possible way to relieve the sufferings,” the chairman said.
Also, the President, Association of Resident Doctors, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr. Kenneth Uwaje, said the association would be willing to render services to the Police.
“The ARD, Yaba, pledges its support in any way the force deems fit. Our members are at your service always to deliver qualitative health care,” Uwaje said.

We’re Better Prepared Against Fresh Lassa Fever Epidemic – NCDC

By Chioma Umeha
The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said that it had taken a number of measures to prevent a recurrence of the outbreak of t
he dreaded Lassa fever in the country.
Recall that between 2015 and 2016, Nigeria recorded one of the largest outbreaks of Lassa fever in its history- reporting 273 cases, including 149 deaths. Of these, 165 cases and 89 deaths had been confirmed through laboratory testing (CFR: 53.9 per cent). The cases were reported from 23 states in Nigeria.
In response to this, the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole inaugurated a Lassa Fever Eradication Committee under the leadership of Prof. Oyewale Tomori to look into the situation and proffer strategies for the NCDC to prevent future outbreaks and thereby reduce the deaths from Lassa fever in Nigeria.
While confirming the case of Lassa fever, the NCDC said it involved a healthcare worker who had died at the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta, on December 20, 2016.
The female nurse died before the laboratory result revealed she was positive for Lassa virus.
Reacting to the latest Lassa casualty, the National Coordinator and CEO, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, allayed fears of fresh imminent Lassa epidemic.
Ihekweazu said it has since dispatched a team of epidemiologists, to support Ogun State to respond to the outbreak.
“An Emergency Operations Centre had since been set up to monitor all contacts of the case, disinfecting contaminated areas and co-ordinating all response activities.”
The NCDC as directed by Minister of Health had been working hard behind the scenes towards preventing the recurrence of the outbreak as recorded last year, Ihekweazu stressed.
He also said that the Minister of Health instructed the leadership of NCDC to commence preparations early in the year by implementing the Lassa Fever Prevention Strategy to prevent the outbreak of the disease this year.
The core of this strategy is to prevent another large Lassa fever outbreak and ensure that all the states in the country are able to respond to any case, National Coordinator and CEO, NCDC, maintained.
After reviewing past experiences, the NCDC developed an approach that focused on preparing the States to lead on prevention and response to cases should they occur, Ihekweazu told journalists in an interview weekend, in Abuja.
According to him, the approach focuses on strengthening the capacities and capabilities of States to prevent, detect and respond to Lassa fever while the NCDC co-ordinates the efforts.
National Coordinator also noted that new guidelines describing all the necessary actions were developed, and are always available for downloading from the NCDC website (
He said: “The guidelines describe systems, activities, and resources at national, state and local government area levels required to respond to suspected cases of Lassa fever.
“It builds on lessons from previous outbreaks. A copy of the guidelines was also sent to all state ministries of health across the country.
“In addition, NCDC mapped out all the States of the country based on their risk of Lassa fever.”
Ihekweazu further said that a team from NCDC had travelled across the country to deliver prevention and response materials and medicines to every State in the country.
While the efforts were ongoing, the NCDC team reached every capital of every State in the country with the supplies and were received by the State epidemiologists, he added.
According to Ihekweazu, the prepositioning of commodities has now ensured that all 36 states and the FCT have a full complement of emergency materials.
This comprises: personal protection equipment, ribavirin, disinfection sprayers, hand sanitisers, hypochlorite (bleach), case definition posters, hard copies of IDSR technical guidelines and safety boxes.
The CEO explained that one critical aspects of responding to Lassa fever is the ability to verify the disease.
He added that the NCDC commenced activities towards strengthening Lassa fever reference laboratories in the country to ensure faster turnaround of laboratory samples result collected across the country.
Ihekweazu said: “The diagnosis of Lassa fever requires specific capabilities in laboratories. The NCDC is working with the two laboratories in the country that currently has capacity to diagnose Lassa fever in Lagos and Irrua to increase their diagnostic capacities, while planning for a larger laboratory network to serve the country.
“A nationwide risk communications plan has also been developed. Throughout the dry season, a new communications plan would address priority antecedents of Lassa fever outbreak to ensure prevention is guaranteed.”
The communication targets all key stakeholders, from presidency to households in Nigeria, and would emphasise the ways to prevent Lassa fever infection, he said.
The Lassa virus is transmitted to humans via contact with food or household items contaminated with infected rodent urine or faeces. Lassa can also be transmitted from human to human through contact with the body fluids of an infected person.
Responding to questions on key messages to Nigerians on protective measures, Ihekweazu said they are the same as last year.
He said: “First, protect your food items from access to rats using whatever means that you can afford – refrigerate, cover, store properly.
Second, if you do have a fever, insist on getting tested for malaria using a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) – remembering that not every fever is malaria.
“No healthcare worker can diagnose malaria without a test, and it is the right of every Nigerian to demand a test.
“Finally and critically, health care workers must remember that healthcare settings are particularly risky, and staff should always apply standard infection prevention and control precautions when caring for patients, regardless of their presumed diagnosis.
“These include basic hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, use of personal protective equipment (to block splashes or other contact with infected materials), safe injection practices and safe burial practices,” Ihekweazu said.

Forex Policy N19b Tomato Paste Industry May Go Extinct In 2017 – Union

By Chioma Umeha
There are fears that the Nigeria’s N19 billion tomato paste manufacturing industry may collapse in the second quarter of 2017, if President Muhammadu Buhari continues to back the harsh forex policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Giving the warning over the imminent collapse of   the industry were the value-chain operators in the tomato paste business.
The operators under the auspices of Union of Tomato Paste Manufacturers in Nigeria stressed that the once vibrant tomato industry might go extinct in 2017 if the CBN does not amend its policy on forex to exclude triple concentrate tomato paste from the scope of the 41 items under the restricted list.
The operators claimed that the CBN reluctance to amend its forex policy has boosted the importation of tomato paste into the country at the peril of local manufacturers.
It will be recalled that Erisco Foods Limited, a former local tomato paste manufacturer in Nigeria, had shut down operations in the country, citing similar conditions.
Nigeria’s Union of Tomato Paste Manufacturers further lamented that the ban on triple concentrate tomato paste used as raw material by local manufacturers has left the local industry in a dilapidating condition.
The union views were contained in a press statement signed by the union’s spokesman, Mr. Nnamdi Nnodebe.
Nnodebe who is also the Managing Director of Sonia Foods Industries Limited, one of the stakeholders in the production of tomato paste variants, confirmed that the total investment in the packing manufacturing sector of tomato paste is about N19 billion.
He lamented: “The economy cannot afford to lose such a huge industry that provides millions of direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians. The fact is this industry that grew to be the 13th largest in the world and second largest in Africa might die before the second quarter of next year if the ban on Forex is not lifted.”
Nnodebe further said the unavailability of tomato paste triple concentrate for the industry will grind production to a halt; meaning millions of people who depend on the industry for their livelihood will lose their jobs or have reduced income.
His words: “The impact of this on the economy will be massive and negative as consumer behaviour will also be influenced leading to low purchase of goods in all sectors, not just tomato.” 
He also reasoned that the tomato industry workers also patronise electronics shops, banks, petrol stations, they pay taxes among others, but they will no longer be able to fulfill all these.
The Managing Director of Sonia Foods Industries Limited said: “It makes better economics to import the raw materials that will enable production, grow the economy and keep jobs rather than importing the finished products or frustrating efforts to get the raw materials, thereby rendering millions jobless which might further kill the economy.
“The local packing industry can also form the hub for exports to the hinterland countries as there are adequate local capacities to more than cater to the domestic requirement. Using the ECOWAS benefits, this can be a huge foreign exchange earner for the country today and in the near future.
“Through the growth of the tomato industry Nigeria can compete with China instead of buying the finished goods from them,” he said.
“It is important for the government to recognize that the packing industry is an essential component of the tomato paste value chain and without this sector there can be no link between the farmer and the final consumer,” Nnodebe added.

Ebola Outbreak, A Thing Of The Past

•We’ll Not Be Defenceless If Next Occurrence Hits – WHO

By Chioma Umeha

In the wake of Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) convened an urgent meeting on September 29 and 30, 2014, to assess the efforts under way to evaluate and produce safe and effective Ebola vaccines as soon as possible.
The 70 scientists, public health officials, and representatives from industry and regulatory bodies who gathered in Geneva discussed two vaccine candidates at length – cAd3-EBOV (cAd3), from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and rVSV?G-EBOV-GP (rVSV), from NewLink Genetics and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Several other vaccine candidates were at earlier, preclinical stages in the development pipeline at that time.
This is over two years ago.However, light seems to have appeared at the end of the tunnel as the world health body on Monday confirmed the first Ebola vaccine.
An online news agency said that an experimental Ebola vaccine was highly protective against the deadly virus in a major trial in Guinea, according to results published in The Lancet.
The vaccine is the first to prevent infection from one of the most lethal known pathogens and the findings add weight to early trial results published last year.
The vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV was studied in a trial involving 11, 841 people in Guinea during 2015.
Among the 5,837 people who received the vaccine, no Ebola cases were recorded in 10 days or more after vaccination. In comparison, there were 23 cases in 10 days or more after vaccination among those who did not receive the vaccine.
The trial was led by the United Nations health body, together with Guinea’s Ministry of Health, Medecins sans Frontieres and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in collaboration with other international partners.
“While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenceless,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, and the study’s lead author.
The vaccine’s manufacturer, Merck, Sharpe & Dohme, this year received Breakthrough Therapy Designation from the United States Food and Drug Administration and PRIME status from the European Medicines Agency, enabling faster regulatory review of the vaccine once it is submitted.

Since Ebola virus was first identified in 1976, sporadic outbreaks have been reported in Africa.
But, the 2013 to 2016 West African Ebola outbreak, which resulted in more than 11, 300 deaths, highlighted the need for a vaccine.
The trial took place in the coastal region of Basse-Guinee, the area of Guinea still experiencing new Ebola cases when the trial started in 2015.
The trial used an innovative design, a so-called ‘ring vaccination’ approach – the same method used to eradicate small pox.
When a new Ebola case was diagnosed, the research team traced all people who may have been in contact with that case within the previous three weeks, such as people who lived in the same household, were visited by the patient, or were in close contact with the patient, their clothes or linen, as well as certain ‘contacts of contacts.’
A total of 117 clusters (or ‘rings’) were identified, each made up of an average of 80 people.
Initially, rings were randomised to receive the vaccine either immediately or after a three-week delay, and only adults over 18 years were offered the vaccine.
After interim results were published showing the vaccine’s efficacy, all rings were offered the vaccine immediately and the trial was also opened to children older than six years.
In addition to showing high efficacy among those vaccinated, the trial also shows that unvaccinated people in the rings were indirectly protected from Ebola virus through the ring vaccination approach (so called ‘herd immunity’). However, the authors note that the trial was not designed to measure this effect, so more research will be needed.
“Ebola left a devastating legacy in our country. We are proud that we have been able to contribute to developing a vaccine that will prevent other nations from enduring what we endured,” said Dr. KeÏta Sakoba, Coordinator of the Ebola Response and Director of the National Agency for Health Security in Guinea.
To assess safety, people who received the vaccine were observed for 30 minutes after vaccination, and at repeated home visits up to 12 weeks later.
Approximately half reported mild symptoms soon after vaccination, including headache, fatigue and muscle pain but recovered within days without long-term effects.
Two serious adverse events were judged to be related to vaccination (a febrile reaction and one anaphylaxis) and one was judged to be possibly related (influenza-like illness).
All three recovered without any long term effects.
It was not possible to collect biological samples from people who received the vaccine in order to analyse their immune response.
Other studies are looking at the immune response to the vaccine including one conducted in parallel to the ring trial among frontline Ebola workers in Guinea.
“This both historical and innovative trial was made possible thanks to exemplary international collaboration and coordination, the contribution of many experts worldwide, and strong local involvement,” said Dr. John-Arne Røttingen, specialist director at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and the chairman of the study steering group.
In January, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance provided US$5 million to Merck towards the future procurement of the vaccine once it is approved, prequalified and recommended by WHO. As part of this agreement, Merck committed to ensure that 3, 00,000 doses of the vaccine are available for emergency use in the interim, and to submit the vaccine for licensure by the end of 2017.
Merck has also submitted the vaccine to WHO’s Emergency Use and Assessment Listing procedure, a mechanism through which experimental vaccines, medicines and diagnostics can be made available for use prior to formal licensure.
Additional studies are ongoing to provide more data on the safety of the vaccine in children and other vulnerable populations such as people with HIV.
In case of Ebola flare-ups prior to approval, access to the vaccine is being made available through a procedure called “compassionate use” that enables use of the vaccine after informed consent. Merck and the WHO’s partners are working to compile data to support licence applications.
The rapid development of rVSV-EBOV contributed to the development of WHO’s R&D Blueprint, a global strategy to fast track the development of effective tests, vaccines and medicines during epidemics.
The rVSV-ZEBOV trial is funded by WHO, with support from the Wellcome Trust, the UK Government through the Department for International Development; the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health through the Research Council of Norway, the Canadian Government through the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the International Development Research Centre, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and Medecins Sans Frontieres.
The trial team includes experts from The University of Bern, the University of Florida, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Public Health England, the European Mobile Laboratories among others.
The trial was designed by a group of experts including the late Professor Donald A. Henderson of John Hopkins University, who led the WHO smallpox eradication effort by using the ring vaccination strategy.
rVSV-ZEBOV was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The vaccine was licensed to NewLink Genetics, who in turn licensed it to Merck & Co.
The vaccine works by replacing a gene from a harmless virus known as vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) with a gene encoding an Ebola virus surface protein. The vaccine does not contain any live Ebola virus. Earlier trials have shown the vaccine to be protective in animals, and be safe and produce an immune response in humans.
Analysis only included cases occurring 10 days after receiving the vaccine to account for the incubation period of the Ebola virus.

Ban On Open Drug Sale Effective August 1 Next Year – PCN

By Chioma Umeha
The Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) has restated the Federal Government’s commitment to eradicate open drug hawking by August 1, 2017.
Mr. Elijah Mohammed, Registrar of the counc
il, said in Abuja on weekend that it was part of efforts to regulate drug distribution system in the country.
The Registrar said the move would help in curbing the menace of open drug sale.
Mohammed attributed major challenges in the health system to open drug hawking.
He added that a lot of the hawkers sold fake and adulterated drugs.
The registrar stated that coordinated wholesale centres were currently being built in four states of the federation where open sale of drugs is predominant.
He said that the drug dealers would be relocated to the centres to enable them to carry out their activities in a coordinated manner.
According to him, the centres would go a long way to curtailing drug hawking, among others, as there would be strict regulation of drug distribution and sales at the centres.
Open drugs marketers or dealers are unlicensed medicines sellers.
They are found in and around the streets, such as Idumota in Lagos, Onitsha, over- head bridges, Sabongari in Kano and Nyanya-FCT.
The centres, Mohammed noted would be located in Kano, Lagos, Onitsha and Aba. Mohammed said that construction of those facilities were on-going.
He said that all dealers would be relocated to the centres where their activities would be properly regulated.
The registrar however said that anyone cut operating outside those centres after the specified date would be arrested and prosecuted by security agency.
“The issue of open drug market will come to an end by August 1,2017 and we are working toward that and have put in place necessary measures to take care of that which is the coordinated wholesale centres.
“The coordinated wholesale centre in Onitsha which is situated in Oba will take care of the Onitsha overhead bridge. And we have inspected the location and been granted approval and development has started.”
Earlier in August this year, pharmacists under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) hinted that its National Executive Council had urged the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) to continue to work with pharmaceutical stakeholders to end the open drug hawking in August 2017.
PSN said that pharmaceutical stakeholders and FMoH resolved jointly in 2015 to actualise State Drug Distribution Centres (SDDCs), Mega Drug Distribution Centres (MDDCs), Registered Wholesalers and newly introduced Coordinated Wholesale Centres (CWCs) as the main legs of drug wholesaling in Nigeria.
PSN spoke in a communique, signed by the society’s President, Ahmed Yakasai, and its National Secretary, GbolagadeIyiola, which was issued at its second National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, recently, in Kano State.
Council insisted that at the expiration of the deadline for movements out of the open market in August 2017, there must be no going back, as all open markets must be closed in line with existing laws.
The pharmacists commended the operators in drug markets in Idumota, Lagos, Ariaria in Aba, Abia State, Sabongeri in Kano and recently in Onitsha, Anambra State, who are already actualising and perfecting the CWC structures in those states.
To stem the tide of fake drug sales and circulation, the new drug distribution channel approved by pharmaceutical stakeholders, FMoH, Pharmacy Council of Nigeria (PCN) and National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) must be upheld and made to work maximally in public interest, PSN said.

IDPs Living with Disabilities In Yobe Get Food, Medical Support

By Chioma Umeha
The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living with disabilities in Yobe State have received some relief materials as well as health support to improve their comfort.
A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), the Chris
taphen Blinding Mission (CBM) made some donations to physically challenged persons at the Kukareta IDPs camp located on the outskirts of Damaturu, the state capital in Nigeria’s northeast.
Those who benefited from the gesture were the cripples, blinds, lepers and the aged among other destitute totalling about 550 persons.
The essence was to carry the IDPs along in the sharing of succour at this critical time of need, said the Programme Officer of CBM in Yobe State, Mr Elisha Agagak.
Agagak observed that in the distribution of relief materials, it has always been survival of the fittest as those living with disabilities get to be under-served.
The CBM, which is said to have greatly improved the lives of destitute and people with disabilities in Yobe State, also reached out to the IDPs in the area of health.
A mental health physician, Dr. Charles Nwoga, noted that the mission made the health support necessary, considering the fact that most of them have severe mental challenges as a result of the insurgency.
The village head of Kukareta, Mr Bulama Lawan, who spoke on behalf of the beneficiaries, commended the mission for the gesture.
Mr. Lawan said that it was the first time disabled IDPs were being prioritised in the distribution of food and non-food items.

How STDs Can Cause Infertility

By Chioma Umeha
In many cases, sexually transmitted diseases or sexually transmitted infections (STDs/STIs) are linked to infertility primarily when they are left untreated.
For instance, chlamydia and gonorrhea are sexually transmitted bacterial infections that can be cured easily with antibiotics. Left untreated, 10 per cent to 20 per cent of chlamydial and gonorrheal infections in women can result in pelvic inflammatory diseas
e (PID) – a condition that can cause long-term complications, such as chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside of the uterus), and infertility.
Additionally, infections with gonorrhea and chlamydia may not cause symptoms and may go unnoticed. These undiagnosed and untreated infections can lead to severe health consequences, especially in women, causing permanent damage to reproductive organs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that these infections cause infertility in at least 24,000 women each year. Although infertility is less common among men, it does occur. More commonly, untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea infections in men may cause epididymitis, a painful infection in the tissue surrounding the testicles, or urethritis, an infection of the urinary canal in the penis, which causes painful urination and fever.
How many people are affected by or at risk for a sexually transmitted disease or sexually transmitted infection (STD/STI)?
Anyone who has had or is having sexual intercourse or oral sex, or who has participated or is participating in sex play, is at risk for acquiring an STD/STI. Fortunately, it is possible for a person to decrease his or her risk by having protected sex and knowing his or her STD/STI status and that of his or her partner. Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly 20 million new cases of these reportable STDs/STIs (gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis) occur each year in the United States—almost half of them among young people 15 to 24 years of age.
While not the most common STD/STI, HIV/AIDS is one of the most devastating and most well known. Recent data from the CDC indicate that 1.1 million Americans have HIV2: One in five is unaware that they have the virus. Approximately 50,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year. 15,529 people with AIDS died in 2010.
The official HIV prevalence by UNAIDS in Nigeria is 3.2 per cent among the adult population, giving a total estimate of 3.4 million Nigerians living with HIV. The most recent national prevalence survey for HIV carried out in Nigeria in 2013/14, undertaken by the National AIDS and STI Control Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health, put overall HIV prevalence among women attending antenatal clinics in Nigeria at 3.0 per cent.
What are the symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease or sexually transmitted infection (STD/STI)?
People with STDs/STIs may feel ill and notice some of the following signs and symptoms: Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina; Sores or warts on the genital area; Painful or frequent urination; Itching and redness in the genital area.
Others are: Blisters or sores in or around the mouth; Abnormal vaginal odour; Anal itching, soreness, or bleeding; Abdominal pain and Fever.
In some cases, people with STDs/STIs have no symptoms, and over time the symptoms, if present, can improve on their own. However, it is common for individuals to have an STD/STI and pass it on to others without knowing it.
If you are concerned that you or your sexual partner may have an STD/STI, talk to your health care provider. Even if you do not have symptoms, it is possible you may have an STD/STI that needs to be treated to ensure your and your partner’s sexual health.

Fish Oil During Pregnancy Reduces Baby’s Asthma Risk – Study

By Chioma Umeha
A new study has linked low intake of omega-3 with rise in childhood asthma. The researchers said that taking fish oil during the third trimester of pregnancy could reduce a baby’s risk of developing asthma by almost a third.
The study, published Thursday, in the New England Journal of Medicine, was conducted by the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) at the Copenhagen University Hospital, with testing done at the University of Waterloo (UW).
“We have long suspected there was a link between the anti-inflammatory properties of long-chain omega-3 fats, the low intakes of omega-3 in Western diets and the rising rates of childhood asthma,” Hans Bisgaard of COPSAC said in a release.
“This study proves that they are definitively and significantly related.”
Fish oil and olive oil
For the five-year study, 736 pregnant women were asked to take 2.4 grams of either fish oil or the placebo olive oil daily starting at 24 weeks of gestation.
The study was a double-blind test, meaning neither the researchers nor the women knew who was taking which supplement.
Researchers were able to follow up with 695 children for their first three years, and again when they were five years old.
The risk of asthma in the children whose mothers took fish oil was 16.9 per cent compared to 23.7 per cent for the children of mothers in the placebo group, the study found.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways that can cause a shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and tightness in the chest. Statistics Canada reported in 2010 that 8.5 per cent of the population aged 12 and older has been diagnosed with asthma.
The Asthma Society of Canada reports it is most common during childhood and affects at least 12 per cent of Canadian children and is a major cause of hospitalization.
Asthma prevention
Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found in cold water fish, the researchers said.
The study also involved testing the levels of EPA and DHA in the pregnant women’s blood – testing that was led by Ken Stark, Canada Research Chair in nutritional lipidomics and professor in the faculty of applied health sciences at the University of Waterloo.
He also said that the testing was comprehensive and thorough. The blood of the mothers was tested before, during and after they took the supplements.
The tests they did were a rapid analytical technique developed by Stark as a low-cost, quick alternative to traditional tests. The lab at UW is one of the few labs in the world equipped to run them.
It was important to get it right because there have been many studies on fish oil where researchers were not as thorough, which has created confusion about whether fish oil is beneficial.
“The neat thing about this study is the quality,” Stark said. “One of the key things was actually using that blood indication so you really know who was taking it, who wasn’t taking it.”
The testing was able to show women with low blood levels of EPA and DHA at the start of the study benefited the most from taking fish oil – it reduced their children’s risk of developing asthma by 54 per cent.
“The proportion of women with low EPA and DHA in their blood is even higher in Canada and the United States as compared with Denmark. So we would expect an even greater reduction in risk among North American populations,” Stark said in a release.

Group Targets Improving Lives Of 18,000 Marginalised Nigerian Girls

 Chioma Umeha
In line with the holistic analysis of the Girl-child based on the 1995 UN fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing conference which seeks among others strategic objective to eliminate all forms of discrimination against her, a non-governmental organisation, Mercy Corps Nigeria has tasked media practitioners on girl child abuses reportage in the country
Speaking at a one day seminar on reporting Violence Against Women and the Girl Child in Lagos, the Acting Programme Coordinator of Mercy Corps Nigeria, Magaritta Omojola said in her opening remark that the media is the watchdog of the society and should propagate the protection of the girl child through its reportage.
The United Nations gave a holistic analysis on who a girl child is and defined certain strategic objectives to protect her.
The objective also includes: Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls, promote and protect the rights of the girl child and increase awareness of her needs and potential?, eliminate discrimination against girls in education, skills development and training, eradicate violence against the girl-child, eliminate discrimination against girls in health and nutrition.
Omojola, while stressing on the role of media to propagate the rights of the girl child said that her organisation has in the past three months engaged on skills development and training as well as sensitising young girls on their rights.
While condemning every form of   abuse and neglect, including, physical and emotional ill treatment against children, especially girls, she said that her organisation is currently working with 18,000 marginalised girls in Lagos state.
Omojola explained that the major project of her organisation is to ensure that marginalised in-school girls improve their learning outcomes in a supportive environment.
To do this, she said the girls participate in weekly learning space activities over a nine-month period to receive academic tutoring as well as employment readiness skills including financial education and leadership skills.
Noting that Lagos state currently has 8,000 out of school girls, Omojola added that it is partnering with the Coca Cola Company to support them.
She also said that the Coca-Cola Company is partnering with the UK Department for International Development’s Girls Education Challenge in its Educating Nigerian Girls in New Enterprises (ENGINE) programme, an initiative to improve learning outcomes and the economic status of marginalised adolescent girls aged 16 and 19 in the North States.
These include: Kano and Kaduna, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the metropolis of Lagos.
ENGINE is guided by Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiative to economically empower five million women in their global value chain by 2020.
ENGINE aims to improve the lives of 18,000 marginalised girls drawn from Lagos and the northern states of Kano, Kaduna and the FCT by improving the quality and reach of education and ensuring new educational opportunities translate into real economic and social choices for girls, she said.
This includes a projected 5,400 marginalised girls currently enrolled in school and more than 12,600 marginalised girls currently out of school.
In Lagos state, almost 2,000 girls were supported with grants of 100,000 Naira, the acting Programme Coordinator said, adding that the least amount received was up to 40,000 Naira. She further said that Mercy Corps organised internship programmes following which some of the participant were employed.
She said: “ENGINE’s Theory of Change states that when marginalised Nigerian girls complete education and training cycles and are supported by gatekeepers they will be more skilled employees and have increased earning power and increased decision-making within the household.
“This Theory of Change will be supported by ENGINE’s objectives and activities and will contribute to the overall impact of improved life chances for marginalised girls, while simultaneously providing further evidence that improved female education contributes to economic growth, reduced poverty and a range of other social and environmental benefits.”
Speaking on challenges, policies and what media practitioners can do to stem child rights abuses, the Chairperson, National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) Lagos State Chapter, Hajia Sekinah Lawal said ending girl child abuse and related issues is a task for all because ‘it is about our daughters, our wives, our sisters and the likes.’
She however added that journalists play very vital role as agenda setters, policy influencers and watchdog of the society, hence, there is the need to encourage Journalists to do more on the issue of girl child by writing and raising issues around the girl child.
Giving her presentation, titled: “Understanding Various Forms Of Abuse Against The Girl Child,” Mrs. Yinka Shokunbi, National Secretary, Network of Reproductive Health Journalists of Nigeria (NRHJN)? said the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as ‘’a human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”.

Scientists Use Stem Cells To Restore Testosterone

By Chioma Umeha
Chinese researchers have developed a potential new and safe approach for treating male hypogonadism, popularly known as male andropause, by directly converting adult skin cells into testosterone-producing cells.
Male hypogonadism, a condition affecting almost a third of older men, occurs when the body does not produce enough of the testosterone hormone, primarily due to the dysfunction of testosterone-producing Leydig cells in the testes.
Testosterone replacement therapy can alleviate some symptoms resulting from Leydig cell failure such as mood disturbances, sexual dysfunction and muscle weakening, but it may also increase the risk of prostate and cardiovascular complications, including the formation of blood clots, a new study published this week in the US journal Stem Cell Reports said.
Scientists then turned to an alternative type of treatment, which involved production of Leydig cells by differentiating stem cells of different sources, such as embryonic stem cells, but the stem cell-based method has ethical concerns and the risk of tumor occurrence.
In the new study, Yadong Huang and Zhijian Su of Chinas Jinan University reasoned that the direct conversion of adult skin cells into Leydig cells would be a safer regenerative medicine approach, state run Xinhua news agency reported.

CISLAC Receives 2016 Award Of Traceability Advocacy, Legislative Services

By Chioma Umeha
The HOPe Africa Secretariat in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, has bestowed on Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), 2016 award of “Traceability Advocacy & Legislative Services”.
This was made known by the Executive Director of HOPe Africa, USA, Francis John in a congratulatory message to CISLAC.
Speaking on the development, John said the award was necessitated by “cumulative exemplary lead and displaying measurable empathy of CISLAC in discharging on-time humanitarian services at all levels of Nigerian communities.”
He said: “Please accept this award in recognition and appreciation for your immersed contributions to Nigerian legislative advancement.
“Your accomplishment is respected worldwide, most especially in the advent of HOPe Africa, creating friendly societies for all ages, regardless of disabilities.
“This you have done while pioneering human development (reengineering immigrants), promoting Veterans Exchange Programme (re-strengthening Esprit De Corps among Military and Paramilitary), Researching & Training of Selected Organizations working in the North Eastern Nigeria on Trauma and Psycho Social Support.
“In view of this, the publisher of AgeMates Magazine is proud to call you its own in a competitive viral – media world,” the Executive Director of HOPe Africa said.
“Once again, accept our warmest congratulations and Happy New Year, while we look forward to working with your outfit, majorly in the areas of advocacy, sensitisation and humanity,” he added.
Receiving the award, the Executive Director of CISLAC (CISLAC), Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani) expressed the organisation’s gratitude to HOPe Africa, USA, for its “tireless effort in promoting and advancing the interest of Africa and Nigeria through sustained positive interventions and contributions.”
Musa also pledged that CISLAC would not relent in the pursue of transparency, accountability and good governance at all levels.
HOPe Africa is a NGO registered in Nigeria since 2003 with Headquarters in the United States of America with a branch United Kingdom.
Also, registered with international organisations, including United Nations, HOPe Africa is very involved in various accelerated community and integrated works with its network of partners in meeting clients’ desirable needs.

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