Dr. Alex Otti, Governor of Abia State, has welcomed the Nigerian Optometric Association’s decision to establish three national eye centres in Abia and has pledged to provide the association with all of the resources it requires to carry out the project.
Governor Otti stated that the government would identify the locations for the centres and provide the necessary logistical support for their launch.
According to Kazie Uko, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, the Governor spoke Thursday while receiving executive members of the Nigerian Optometric Association and representatives from the global eyecare charity, One Sight Essilor Luxottica Foundation.
He thanked the association for choosing Abia as one of the federation’s states to benefit from the first phase of the proposed eye vision centres, which aim to address the common issue of visual impairment caused by refractive errors.
“I would like to express my gratitude for your decision to consider Abia. We, like Oliver Twist, will never be satisfied. But, for the time being, I believe we must take advantage of the offer and collaborate closely with you,” the Governor stated.
Governor Otti told the visiting eye doctors that their offer came at the right time because his administration had just begun the process of renovating the state’s primary healthcare facilities and would therefore incorporate the project into the design and implementation to ensure its timely realisation.
According to the Governor, the government has begun to renovate and retrofit the state’s 15 general hospitals, beginning with three and progressing to the remaining 12. He stated that once these are completed, “we will move on to the primary health centres.”
On the request for an increase in the salaries and allowances of optometry doctors in the Abia State civil service, Governor Otti stated that his Special Adviser on Labour Relations was working on a comprehensive salary review.
Earlier in an address, the association’s National President, Dr Chimeziri Anderson, who led the delegation, stated that the One Sight Essilor Luxottica Foundation had decided to establish optical laboratories in select regions of Nigeria, with Umuahia, Abia State, being chosen for the Eastern Region.
Dr. Anderson stated that the association had considered Abia as one of the states where the first phase of first-level Vision Centres would be established and that the facility would be located at primary schools at no cost to the government.
He stated that the project, which will cover 36 states and the FCT, has been launched in Abia state in recognition of Governor Otti’s healthcare drive, as evidenced by his increased budgetary allocation to healthcare.
Dr. Anderson used the forum to request that internship training for optometrists begin in state higher education institutions, that optometrists be hired by local governments through the primary health development agency to extend eye care services to rural communities, and that optometry doctors’ salaries and allowances be reviewed in the Abia State civil service, among other things.
Dr Betty Emeka-Obasi, the Governor’s Senior Special Assistant on Special Duties and an association member who oversees the eye clinic at the Abia Specialist and Diagnostic Centre in Umuahia, also attended the meeting.
Abia Government Announces Start Of Patients Screening For Surgery Ahead Of ANPA Medical Mission
Patients are being screened for surgery in 65 centres across Abia State in preparation for the Association of Nigeria Physicians in the Americas’ (ANPA) free medical mission.
According to a statement signed by Professor Azubuike Onyebuchi, Chairman of the Local Organising Committee and Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Umuahia, and Dr Ifeyinwa Uma-kalu, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, “the screening begins on Monday, February 19 and ends Friday, March 22nd.”
“It will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, at no cost to patients,” the statement added.
According to the statement, a team of 70 medics from North and South America will perform approximately 100-200 surgeries in the state during the 10-day outreach.
It stated that the mission aimed to provide services to 5000 patients, “plus preventative screenings, skills transfer and capacity building workshops/education.”
In December 2023, ANPA selected Abia State for the 2024 edition of her annual medical outreach, which will take place from April 4 to 14.
The outreach will take place concurrently at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Umuahia, Abia Diagnostic Centre Umuahia, and General Hospital Amachara.
“Screening of patients with serious health conditions that require surgery has begun at designated centres across the state for easy access to all residents,” according to the statement.
It also stated, “The screening will end on Friday, March 22, 2024. The laboratory tests for patients scheduled for surgery will begin on March 18 and end on March 22, 2024.
“Likewise, blood donation begins on March 18th and continues throughout the medical mission.”
According to the statement, the 65 screening centres are: Aba North LGA – Eziama Primary Health Centre (PHC), Umuola Egbulu PHC, and Osusu PHC; Aba South LGA – General Hospital Aba, College of Health Aba, Aba Town Hall, and Amaufuru WPHC.
Others are: Arochukwu LGA- Arochukwu General Hospital, Amuvi PHC, Ozu Abam PHC, Aduanu Ihe PHC, and Ndi Oji Abam PHC; Bende LGA- Bende Maternity WPHC, Uzuakoli PHC, Igbere PHC, and Ndiwo WPHC; and Ikwuano LGA- Ikwuano General Hospital, Awom Ukwu PHC, and Umudike PHC.
The statement also named Amuosu PHC, Okpuala Ngwa General Hospital, Avo Ntigha PHC, and Akpu na Ekpu PHC as centres for Isiala Ngwa North LGA, as well as Ugba PHC, Eketa PHC, Osokwa Model PHC, and Omoba PHC for Isiala Ngwa South LGA.
Others include Isuikwuato LGA, which has Isuikwuato General Hospital, Mgbelu Umunekwu PHC, and Ukwunwangwu Uturu PHC; Obingwa LGA, which has Mgboko Amairi PHC, Itukpa PHC, Ehere PHC, and Akumaimo PHC; and Ohafia LGA, which has Ohafia General Hospital, Cottage Hospital Nkporo, General Hospital Abiriba, and Ohafor PHC.
Osisioma LGA’s designated centres include Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH), Osisioma Cottage Hospital, Ekearo PHC, and Abayi Ogbulegba PHC, whereas Ugwunagbo LGA’s designated centres include Asa Umunka PHC, Aza PHC, Ngwaiyiekwe PHC, and Obegu PHC.
Other facilities include Akwuette PHC, Azumini PHC, Ohanku PHC, and Ohambele PHC in Ukwa East LGA; Okeikpe General Hospital, Cottage Hospital Owaza, Obehie PHC, and Ogwe PHC in Ukwa West LGA; and Infant Welfare Clinic (IWC) Ojike Street, Nkwoegwu PHC, Umuda Isingwu PHC, and Abia Specialist Hospital across from FMC Umuahia in Umuahia North LGA.
The centres in Umuahia South LGA are Amachara General Hospital, Ubakala PHC, Old Umuahia PHC, and Ahiaukwu PHC, while in Umunneochi LGA they are General Hospital Isuochi, Umuchieze PHC, and Eziama Agbo.
The statement encouraged Abia residents who had serious ailments that required surgery to visit any of the screening centres nearby for a free medical examination.
It also asked for volunteers to help build a sufficient blood bank for the surgeries, urging any willing donor to visit the centres for screening beginning March 18.
According to the statement, the medical outreach is being carried out in collaboration with the Abia State Government and some non-governmental organisations such as Rotary International District 9142, ASNA, NeoPed, DAGOMO, and IRRE.
Gov. Otti Pledges A Comprehensive Overhaul Of Healthcare Facilities In Abia
*State To Offset Medical BilIs Of 30 Citizens In Urgent Need For Surgery*
Abia State Governor Alex Otti has reiterated his commitment to ensuring a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s healthcare facilities, including the construction of new ones, in order to improve the overall well-being of its citizens.
He further state that Abia State government will foot the medical expenses of 30 residents in urgent need of surgery for various ailments.
According to a statement from Kazie Uko, Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, this comes as the government has just concluded a six-month long free medical outreach and treatment of residents across the state.
Following an appeal by a visiting Bulgarian non-governmental organisation, Revive, which was on a medical outreach to the state, Otti promised that the government would pay the bills.
The Revive medical team, led by a Nigerian of Abia descent, Mr. Smart Oriaku, paid a visit to the Governor on Friday at the end of their 13-day medical outreach to thank him for the support they received from the state’s government and people while carrying out their activities, which included consultations, diagnosis, laboratory tests and scans, prescriptions, and surgery, among other things.
Governor Otti told the visitors, among whom were nurses, doctors, surgeons and other support medical professionals, that his administration was committed to ensuring the comprehensive overhaul of the healthcare facilities in the state, including building new ones, in order to improve the overall well-being of the citizens.
The Governor said his administration takes healthcare delivery seriously, hence the focus on renovating and retrofitting the health outfits as well as the prompt measures taken to ensure the restoration of accreditation for the Abia State University’s medical school and Abia State University Teaching Hospital, Aba. Both the university and the teaching hospital lost accreditation over two years ago.
According to the Governor, who disclosed that government is currently rehabilitating about 15 general hospitals across the state, his adminstration is still pushing ahead with plan to establish a ‘Medical Village’, which he said would attract medical tourists to Abia and reverse the trend of people travelling to countries like India for their medical needs.
Governor Otti commended the efforts of the visiting medical team, and particularly Mr. Oriaku, for single-handedly bringing the Revive team to Abia.
“I’m pleased to receive you and commend you for your labour of love. Governor Otti told the visitors, who included nurses, doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals, that his administration was committed to ensuring a complete overhaul of the state’s healthcare facilities, including the construction of new ones, in order to improve citizens’ overall well-being. If all of us who have been blessed in one way or the other do what you’re doing, I’m sure this place would be a better place for everyone,” the Governor observed.
In an address earlier, the leader of the team, Mr. Oriaku, said that the medical mission was solely sponsored by his family, the Late Rev. David Ukeje Oriaku family of Okaiuga Nkwoegwu, Umuahia North LGA, in the spirit of giving back to the society.
Oriaku said that the team had within the 13 days they held their outreach performed over 700 consultations, conducted over 60 successful surgeries, ranging from Goiter, Hernia among others, and had kept check on patients to ensure there were no complications.
He said that all laboratory tests and scans, from CT Scan, Echography and other laboratory tests as recommended by the surgical team were paid for by his family. Also, the medical bills of all women, who gave birth at the Okaiuga Nkwoegwu Health center, venue of the consultation, were paid in addition to ten thousand Naira gift to the new mothers.
Oriaku informed Governor Otti of a new discovery in the cure of breast cancer, without the victim going through the pains of chemotherapy, and pointed out that the team would want to use Abia as the base for the pilot, a request the Governor responded to in affirmation.
Mr. Oriaku, who stated that he was among those who had almost given up hope in Abia prior to the current administration’s assumption, expressed satisfaction that the medical mission, which had been unable to take place under the previous administration despite persistent requests and efforts, had been made possible under Governor Otti.
According to the team leader, the Revive team focuses on medical outreach for the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, and is currently active in several African countries and beyond.
World Malaria Report 2023: A Call For Concerted Action To Address Growing Threats
By Martin Lukindu*
The World Health Organisation’s World Malaria Report 2023, released at the end of 2023, paints a concerning picture of the global state of malaria in 2022. Despite continued efforts, malaria remains a significant public health challenge, with both malaria incidence and mortality higher now than they were before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This scenario is exacerbated by the growing impact of climate change, which, alongside other challenges, threatens to reverse progress in the fight against the disease.
Compared to 2021, the report indicates an increase in global malaria cases, which rose to approximately 249 million in 2022. Global deaths from the disease were estimated at 608,000, a nearly 6% increase since 2019. Particularly alarming is the continued high burden of the disease in Africa.
The African region disproportionally bore the brunt of the malaria burden in 2022, accounting for 94% of global malaria cases and 95% of all malaria deaths. About 78% of these deaths occurred in children under the age of five. Uganda is part of a group of five countries, including Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Papua New Guinea, identified by the report as collectively accounting for a majority of the increase in global malaria cases.
This year’s report places a special focus on climate change as a critical factor threatening progress in the fight against malaria. Climate-related disruptions, such as extreme weather events, have exacerbated the spread of the disease. For instance, the 2022 floods in Pakistan led to an increase of over 2 million malaria cases, highlighting how climate change can directly influence malaria transmission.
Another notable example is the expansion of malaria into African highlands, regions previously less affected due to their cooler climate. Such shifts underscore how climate change can impact the dynamics of malaria transmission and further complicate efforts to control and eliminate the disease.
Alongside climate change, other challenges are threatening efforts to fight malaria. Growing resistance to available control tools, such as insecticides and anti-malarial drugs, remains an increasing concern. The report also highlights the threat posed by the emergence and spread of the Anopheles stephensi mosquito in East Africa, a species particularly adept at breeding in urban settings and highly resistant to insecticides. These factors, coupled with health system challenges and a significant funding gap — which reached US$3.7 billion in 2022 — paint a picture of a battle against malaria that is becoming increasingly complex.
Overall, despite sustained efforts, the world remains off track to meet the targets of the WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030. In 2022, there were over 58 malaria cases for every 1,000 people at risk, more than double the target rate. Similarly, the global malaria mortality rate stood at around 14 deaths per 100,000 people at risk, which is over twice the target of just under 7.
Despite these challenges, there have also been achievements. Recent progress includes the launch of the first malaria vaccine, RTS, S/AS01, and the endorsement by WHO of a second vaccine, R21/Matrix-M. Additionally, the deployment of new dual-active ingredient insecticide-treated nets and expanded malaria prevention for high-risk children have been crucial advancements offering new avenues for combating the disease.
The report underscores that the path towards malaria elimination will require a comprehensive and integrated approach. This means significantly ramping up both financing and political commitment to support the fight against the disease. It will also mean using data strategically and harnessing innovation to develop new malaria control tools that can complement existing interventions and address growing challenges. To make headway, the report recommends that innovation focus on the development of more efficient and affordable products that are less susceptible to changes in temperature.
“To forge ahead toward a malaria-free future, we need a concerted effort to tackle these diverse threats that foster innovation, resource mobilisation, and collaborative strategies.”
The fight against malaria, especially in the context of climate change, demands a renewed commitment to developing new and improved tools, strategically enhancing intervention strategies, actively boosting funding, and advancing research. Now, more than ever is the time to unite against malaria, with a heightened focus on innovation and collaboration, in Africa and across the globe.
- Lukindu, is a Postdoctoral Researcher, Target Malaria at the Uganda Virus Research Institute
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