The UN Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, has called on the government to concentrate on tackling non-communicable diseases in the country, warning that they would soon surpass communicable diseases if people do not follow preventive measures.
Mr Kallon made this call in Abuja on Tuesday at the launch of the National Multi-Sectorial Action Plan for Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs).
The event was also used to flag-off the Resolve to Saves Lives Program in Nigeria.
The National Multi -Sectorial Action Plan for Non- Communicable Diseases (2019-2025) is a road map for reducing morbidity and mortality of the disease in the country.
The plan is a five-year framework instituted as a guideline for cost-effective policies and social interventions to influence behaviour and lifestyle changes and reduce the risk factors for NCDs.
The event was organised by the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Mr Kallon, who was represented by the WHO Officer- in- Charge, Peter Clement, noted that many NCDs can be prevented but, nfortunately, the diseases continue to rise.
He said NCDs, which include cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD), diabetes, and mental ill-health are now leading causes of disabilities and death globally.
Mr Kallon lamented that the mortality and morbidity of NCDs in low- and middle-income countries are fast outpacing those of communicable diseases.
He attributed the increase to smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, environmental pollution, unhealthy diets, and lack of physical exercises among other contributing factors.
He said the situation has to change.
The rapid rise in NCDs has become a public health challenge globally, especially for developing countries like Nigeria. This is because it is increasingly putting a strain on the health system.
Although there are no official statistics for the burden of NCDs in Nigeria, 2014 WHO global reports on NCDs shows that NCDs was responsible for 38 million (68 per cent) of the world’s 56 million deaths in 2012.
More than 40 per cent of the deaths (16 million) are considered premature (deaths under the age of 70).
The WHO NCD 2016 country profile for Nigeria estimated that NCDs cause approximately 617,300 deaths, representing 29 per cent of total deaths in the country.
Out of these, diabetes accounted for two per cent, cancer four per cent, injuries eight per cent and cardiovascular disease 11 per cent.
The report also stated that premature death in the country (between 30 and 70 years) due to NCDs is 22 per cent.
Some of the major NCDs in Nigeria include cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke.
Others include cancer, diabetes, sickle cell anaemia, chronic respiratory diseases, mental illness, neurological and substance use disorders, road traffic injuries and oral health disorders.
Although there are existing health sector and non-health sector responses to most of these diseases, the astronomical increase of these diseases are beginning to raise concerns.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Abdulaziz Abdullahi, in his remark said Nigeria is undergoing a demographic and epidemiological transition with a concomitant increase in risk factors for NCDs.
Mr Abdullahi said “the launch of the NCD multisectoral action plan is to hit the ground running in tackling the diseases.
Mr Abdullahi urged Nigerians to be mindful of their eating habits, ways of life and always go for a medical check.
“The poor and the rich are affected due to changes in our lifestyle patterns and socioeconomic conditions.
“Other factors such as worsening security situations globally and nationally that predisposes many to mental health problems,” he said.