How Nigeria Can Tackle Public Health Challenges – FUTA Don

A Professor of Parasitology and Public Health at the Federal university of Technology, Akure, FUTA Mobolanle Oniya has advocated the institutionalization of personal and public hygiene as a veritable measure to prevent and curtail diseases spread mainly through parasites that inhabits the human body.

Professor Oniya ,who identifies strict adherence to the principles of Water Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH as a preventive measure that would deepen the fight against spread of communicable diseases, gave the advice while delivering FUTA’s 149th inaugural lecture with the title, “Deliver Us, O Host, from Eradication ………the Parasites Pray,” on Tuesday February 21,2023. He explained that parasites are organisms that cause harm or injury to hosts. He added that the greatest burden of infection is seen in preschool-aged and school-aged children on account of their play attitude and little adherence to hygiene etiquettes.

Giving the example of Schistosomiasis, which he says is endemic in about 13 out of 18 Local Government areas of Ondo States and its prevalence among the very young, Oniya said, “It is common to see these young lads wading and swimming in water, crab hunting and fishing, some even take quick swim during break periods.

The more they visit the streams , the more predisposed they are to infections /reinfection , while also contaminating the water bodies as they urinate in the water to release parasite eggs , that will start the life cycle process ending up in new transmissions.”

The Don emphasized that many parents do not bother to check the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, WASH deployment in their children schools. He argued that most are not even aware of the toilet conditions in the schools, whether they are available or indeed functional. Professor Oniya, who majorly dwelt on hygiene etiquette, said school runs is not only to drop off or pick up children, as a healthy child may be dropped off in school and his or her health may be compromised while learning.

He said the busy schedule of most parents have made them to neglect normal hygiene practices such as teaching their wards to wash their hands regularly after playing or visiting toilets and deworming children during the holidays.

He disclosed that as simple and irrelevant these issues seem; they may appear to be tell-tale indications of one’s child brilliance or otherwise in school performance. He explained that worms are known to deny host of nutritive and non-nutritive resources which can make them become anemic. According to him, worms in adults may induce anemia and abortion in pregnancy.

Professor Oniya said research has shown a worrisome trend of resistance by parasites to drugs. He said the various anti malaria orthodox and unorthodox medicines sold over the counter (OTC) or concocted by local herbals in the trado-medicine practice with the latter gaining more prominence in the management of malaria episodes in South Western Nigeria on account of repeated testimonies of drug failure on taking chloroquine or Artemisinin based Combination Therapy (ACT) drugs.

Professor Oniya said malaria remains the number one killer parasite disease with majority of morbidity and mortality cases in children under 5 years of age.
He further explained diseases caused by parasites are called “dirty diseases” because they are more or less contracted through the facial and oral route promoted by dirty or lack of attention to regular hygiene, hand washing with soap and water before eating, after handling of currency notes, defecation, hand shake and a host of other unhealthy habits.

Among recommendations made, Professor Oniya said to stop answering the prayers of parasites, concerted efforts must be deployed with government using its political will in this regard. According to him, the phrase health is wealth should be changed to health is life and the Populace must, “Demand for our right to life as enshrined in the constitution of the country. We must commit our leaders to deliver political will by insisting that Health is Life.” Oniya advised that there should be Public Health Nigeria, PHN just like Big Brother Nigeria, BBN as more partners are needed in the fight against diseases. . He said those who volunteer for PHN should be inducted as ambassadors of public health initiatives and they now in turn use their status to spread the news of Public Health awareness.

Oniya called for the enactment of two laws: the first should stipulate that all political public office holders should have their children educated in Nigeria and the second should also mandate them to access health care in Nigeria. He also said all private and public schools should be bound by laws to provide WASH facilities or risk closure.

The Vice Chancellor, Professor Adenike Oladiji, who chaired the occasion, praised the brilliant delivery of the lecture and commended the intellectual prowess of Professor Oniya who has churned out a number of academics and contributed significantly to the development of body of knowledge in his chosen field of study.

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