NOW THE WORLD CAN LEARN FROM AFRICA

Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh

By. GREGORY NNAM*

The first case of Ebola in Nigeria was confirmed in Lagos on July 20, 2014. The disease entered the country through an infected Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawyer who had reportedly come to Nigeria to seek medical attention. The days that followed this confirmation were thick with media reports on the apocalyptic projections of health experts and political commentators who had admitted the possibility of an epidemic. In fairness, the experts should not be blamed for their early convictions because with the conditions in Nigeria it would have been unwise to infer the contrary. Nigeria had for a while been standing on the edge of a precipice. The health system management was in ruins. Poor facilities, lack of trained professionals and lack of organisation all added up to make the condition grim and the unstable socio-political landscape snuffed out whatever hope there might have been for an improvement. Even the outbreak of Ebola in neighbouring West African countries drew only a passing attention from the government and the media alike. Therefore when the disease came calling the country was almost unprepared. As if to confirm our worst fears, Patrick Sawyer died 5 days after his arrival in Nigeria leaving behind a number of infected persons. Before long, the initial fears of the people spiraled into a nationwide panic. In the midst of the confusion, every kind of wrong information was spread and sadly it led to the loss of some lives. Unlike other diseases the country has had to contend with, the high population in the country presented a perfect condition for the transmission of the disease from Lagos to other parts of the country. The situation was dire and therefore needed an immediate and well directed response. Thankfully the Nigerian government was on hand to provide this response.

The government set up isolation wards and treatment centres in Lagos and equipped the health ministry with specially adapted mobile communication systems to trace the contacts made by sawyer. Prior to the outbreak of Ebola, Nigeria already had teams in place to investigate the outbreaks of Lassa fever and Cholera. There were also about 100 Nigerian doctors being trained in epidemiology by the US Centre for Disease control. These formed the health team that spear-headed the attack on Ebola in the country. Although the disorganization in Nigeria’s disaster management system presented a challenge, the health operatives were able to trace 100% of all primary and secondary contacts linked to the first Ebola case. The health team handled the treatment of the Ebola patients and the monitoring of the suspected carriers of the virus. It is unclear what had informed the decision of a certain Ebola patient who ignored the treatment centres in Lagos and sought medical assistance in Port-Harcourt. The patient got what he came for but not without infecting the doctor who was treating him, further expanding the coverage area of the virus. The health ministry swung into action and with a robust financial and technical backing from the government 98.9% of all primary and secondary contacts of the first patient in Port-Harcourt were found and isolated for observation. According to a report by the US Centres for Disease control and prevention, about 900 people-nearly everyone who had contact with patient zero (Patrick Sawyer) were identified, interviewed and monitored with approximately 18500 face to face visits conducted by investigators of the Nigerian centre for Disease control and the Ministry of Health. This without doubt is a vivid manifestation of a high level of dedication and diligence. These two virtues unfortunately are gradually becoming extinct in modern societies largely because of the comfort-seeking lifestyle led by many. This African example speaks eloquently of the benefits of these virtues. With renewed efforts by the health team a good number of the patients responded to treatment and before long there were recorded cases of 11 complete recoveries out of the 19 diagnosed cases.

The widespread misinformation that resulted from the chaos witnessed in the early stages of the disease’s outbreak was effectively nullified by the government’s public enlightenment initiatives. The media was awash with announcements, shows and jingles that threw more light on the nature of Ebola, its prevention and the efforts made in its control. The government banned indefinitely all inter-state movement of corpses to restrict the spread of the disease. Within a few weeks of relentless efforts all cases of Ebola in Nigeria were under control. It came as no surprise to any when on October 20, 2014 Nigeria was declared an Ebola-free nation after 42 days without any new infection. The WHO allows 42 days to pass before declaring a country Ebola-free because this period represents twice the length of time required for any infected person to manifest symptoms of the disease (window period). Besides this, the WHO requires that active surveillance must be in place to detect “chains of transmission that might remain hidden”. Three days earlier neighbouring Senegal was declared Ebola-free after a less serious battle with the virus.

During a media briefing, the WHO labelled the effective control of Ebola in Nigeria “a spectacular success story”. Besides the literal implication of this statement, it also means that the rest of the world especially those countries still struggling to control the virus can indeed learn from Africa. Without in any way claiming that Africa has the best expertise or structures for disease control, it should be noted that the experience of Nigeria and Senegal can serve as a template for charting the path for the control of the disease globally. The efforts of various governments both within and outside Africa to control the spread of Ebola in countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea even though inadequate is still worthy of commendation. Without doubt, if efforts are increased and adequate machineries are put in place very soon the world will be Ebola-free.

* Gregory Nnam, studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka

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PROTECTING NIGERIAN CHILDREN

By Sonnie Ekwowusi

What is happening to us in this country? Why should anybody in his right senses target the Nigerian young for destruction? I can’t believe what they are doing to the Nigerian young. While we are still lamenting that Chibok girls have not been released and that many children are victims of Boko Haram senseless murder, some people are meeting in Abuja and corrupting children. We are losing our sense of public shame in this country, and, this, for me, is a big tragedy. Last week the so-called 3rd Nigeria “family planning” Conference was staged at the Sheraton Hotels, Abuja. From all intents and purposes, the Conference was supposed to be a Conference on family planning but the Conference ended being a very big public scandal: it ended up being a Conference to assist Nigerian children and Nigerian minors to have access to all sizes of condoms, and contraceptives and literature on permanent sterilization Vasectomy, deprovera female sterilization (Tubal Ligation), injectable contraceptives, IUCD, postinor2,Lo-femenal, norplant, suction tubes etc.

At the Youth pre-conference sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which took place a day to the Conference, a video animation was shown to young Nigerians on how to effectively practise “safe-sex” using the condoms and other contraceptives. The young people also watched another video animation of other young people sharing knowledge and experience on issues related to condom use and contraceptive use. The UNFPA created a social media campaign code-named “No Hoodie No Honey” posted on twitter aimed at supplying condoms and contraceptives to young Nigerians including Nigerian minors. The UNFPA was out to coerce young people into believing that “safe-sex” is their right and therefore they shouldn’t be ashamed to practice “safe sex” even if the different cultures and religions teach otherwise. For example, one of the inscriptions on the No Hoodie No Honey roll up stand posted on twitter reads: “Lets push for easy access to the female condom and that a woman may buy condoms without being shamed”

First: this advert is tainted by fraud and deception. The advert that condom protects its user against infections and against HIV is a fraudulent advert. Scientifically, no condom is safe proof. Every condom has naturally-occurring holes that put its user in serious jeopardy. Because condoms are not safe, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) has enacted a law that every condom advertised in Nigeria must carry the following Health Risk Warning Clause: “Be warned: condom is not 100 per cent safe: total abstinence or faithfulness is the best option”. The “Gold Circle” condom carelessly and indiscriminately used in Nigeria has been banned in Ghana. On 20th July 2005, Ghana’s Food and Drugs Board (FDB) issued what it called “Consumer Alert on “Gold Circle” Brand of condoms to the effect that the Gold circle condoms do not have adequate physical strength and therefore likely to break during use. Therefore the FDB directed all Ghanaian pharmacies, licensed chemical shops and other outlets that had stocks of “Gold circle” brand of condoms to remove them from their shelves and return them to their sources of supply. I don’t know when the “Gold Circle” condom would be banned in Nigeria.

But assuming condom were effective, condom-use promotes sexual promiscuity and pre-marital pregnancy because of the false sense of security it generates in users. And sexual promiscuity, by definition, spreads sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.

In any case, condom “safe-sex” is not the first priority of the average young Nigerian in the street: the first priority of the average young Nigerian is to settle down in life-to secure a good job, earn a good salary, have a roof over his or her head and marry a good wife or a good husband later. If the organisers of the Abuja conference were really and truly interested in helping the Nigerian young, why didn’t they organise a job-creation conference or a skill-acquisition Conference or farming Conference to boost food production instead of  a condom Conference?. Is condom food that young Nigerians must eat to stay alive?

More importantly, most contraceptives are deadly. A Study that has been carried out have shown that a woman who takes birth control pills before her first child is born has at least 40% of increased risk of developing breast cancer and that a woman who has taken the pill for four or more times prior to the birth of her first child has a 72% risk factor in developing breast cancer. In October 2011, the New York Times published an article entitled Contraceptive Used in Africa May Double Risk of H.I.V. This article was based on a cohort study by prestigious medical Research journal The Lancet that clearly stated that “the risk of HIV-1 acquisition doubled with the use of hormonal contraception especially the injectable methods.” In addition to the HIV-related effects of this product, there is also the doubled risk of breast cancer demonstrated by various studies like the extensive research done by the Fred Hutchingson Cancer Research centre, Seattle and published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in February 2012, with the research team stating clearly after their studies : “We found that recent DMPA (Depo-Medroxyprogesterone acetate a.k.a Depo-Provera) use for 12 months or longer was associated with a 2.2-fold increased risk of invasive breast cancer.”

It is sad that most foreign NGOs and agencies are coming to Nigeria to exploit our children to their own gain. The UNFPA, for example, has become notorious for distributing condoms and contraceptives among Nigerian teens. And the government appears to have shut its eyes to this atrocity. This cannot continue. Now is the time to stand up and protect our children if we want them to have a stake in bright future.