Glaucoma Week: Expert criticises poor attitude of Nigerians to eye health

The world marks the 2018 World Glaucoma Week with a Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr Charles Omale chiding the poor attitude of Nigerians to eye care.

Omale, the Managing Director, Fortress Eye Hospital in Abuja said on Saturday that due to this attitude, most health interventions were forced on citizens.

He confirms that many do not observe routine eye and general health check-ups “even with the continuous awareness creation, sensitisation and campaign by NGOs, public health and religious organisations.”

According to Omale, although the awareness about glaucoma had improved over the years, it was still below expectation because of the general attitude of people to health care.

“The attitude of people to health care is very poor and so you will need to force it down their throats most of the time. NGOs, public health organisations, individuals and even places of worship have continued to carry out campaign about Glaucoma; what it is, the risk factors and the need to ensure early diagnosis and treatment, if that is the case.

“If people will even listen to the radio, read the newspapers and other media platforms, they will definitely see or listen to programmes that talk about the need to always engage in routine medical eye check-up. However, I doubt if most of those who come across these programmes respond in the same measure by putting to practice all recommendations and advise.

“Churches also have begun in recent times to carry out these campaigns in places of worship; we see eye specialists coming to give health talks on glaucoma and other eye diseases. I am sure this is largely aimed at educating the people.

“I hope that people will begin to take issues concerning their health seriously because it is for their own benefit,” Omale said.

He said that due to the significance of Glaucoma to an individual health and life, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had set apart a week every year to give attention to the condition, adding that this was also to encourage people to take their eye health seriously and allow eye health centres provide more assistance to citizens in the areas of awareness, diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

“The main purpose of the World Glaucoma Week is to improve publicity, awareness and education about the disease. Over time, we have seen improved responses generally.

A week in the month of March is set aside every year to commemorate the World Glaucoma Week with the “2018 World Glaucoma Week” held from March 11 to 17.

The theme this year is: “GREEN= Go Get Your Eyes Tested for Glaucoma Save Your Sight”.

During the week, a wide range of activities including free eye awareness, diagnosis, test and treatment are organised by ophthalmologists, optometrists and other eye care workers in hospitals, clinics among other locations.

According to eye experts, glaucoma causes progressive damage to the vision mostly without any signs or symptoms until vision is impaired or completely lost.

Damage to the eye from Glaucoma cannot be reversed, therefore, the earlier the diagnosis the less damage and more vision there is to save.

Health, Science

FUTA Don discovers natural health products to have potentials to treat cancer, diabetes, other ailments

Muftau Oladunmoye, a professor of Pharmaceutical Microbiology with the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) has said that natural products derived from plant and animal sources have the potential to prevent and treat challenging health issues such as cancer, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, heart related diseases and a number of ailments threatening the well-being of people globally.

Speaking at the 96th Inaugural lecture of FUTA on the topic: Natural Products Derived Antimicrobials:  The Myth and Reality, Oladunmoye cited various examples of scientifically proven efficacy of extracts from herbs and plants in the treatment of ailments.

Explaining that extracts from mistletoe growing on cocoa and Kolanut trees have proven anti-cancer property, he however advocated for “thorough research into how to improve the quality and safety of natural products for therapeutic purposes and for intellectual as well as material investment in its development to ensure its survival.”

The lecturer said while there were some potential hazards associated with herbal medication such as allergies and cellular respiration inhibitors, “the greatest challenges facing the use of these products is the prevalence of myths associated with its use.”

He stressed the advantages of natural products, which he posited, outweigh the disadvantages “as traditional remedies are mostly compounded from natural products and there is the likelihood of them being accepted by the body than substances produced in the laboratory.”

According to him, “In recent times, especially in the sub region, preference of traditional health products over orthodox medicine has been on the rise due to low incomes and weak financial strength of most people in rural areas and high cost of imported chemically synthesized drugs some of which have undesirable side effects.”

While urging for concerted effort towards evaluating the potentials and medicinal value of natural products for prophylactic and therapeutic applications to health, he said “the maintenance of good health should be holistic embracing orthodox and traditional methods, and the lines of convergence between them must be promoted not demarcated by health authorities as part of measures to guarantee improve physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the populace.”

The Professor defined natural products as chemical compounds or substances produced by living organisms or found in nature that have pharmacological or biological activities.

“Nature has been a source of medicinal agents for thousands of years and an impressive number of drugs have been isolated from natural sources, many based on their uses in traditional medicine,” Oladunmoye said while recommending that “modern scientific approaches in extraction and purification should be explored by pharmaceutical industry while considering traditional medicine as a source of identification of bioactive agent that can be used in the preparation of synthetic medicine.”

He stressed the need to have standardized, effective and ethical, quality control practices on conserving and propagating natural products in whatever way they could be used and the development of globally applicable guidelines to promote the safety and quality of natural products through formulation of codes.

Oladunmoye said local health authorities should, where applicable, “seek the collaboration of traditional practitioners in promoting programs such environmental sanitation, personal hygiene, family planning and immunization. While traditional health practitioners should be trained to improve their skill and to ensure their cooperation in making use of referral system in dealing with high risk patients.”

The Don urged government and stakeholders in the health sector to establish formalized national, state and local government boards on traditional medicine in order to coordinate and regulate their activities and practices.

He also called on universities to establish Centers for Natural Products Research in order to standardize indigenous medicine and pharmacopeia through teaching and scientific research.

Chairman of the occasion and Vice Chancellor of FUTA, Prof. Joseph Fuwape commended the lecturer and described the lecture as not only timely but also enlightening given the prevalent health challenges facing people globally.

“Oladunmoye is a scholar par excellence who has contributed immensely to the body of knowledge in his area of specialization and the development of the institution,” the VC said.

The lecture was attended by royal fathers, stakeholders in the academic sector, staff and students of the university.



UNICEF selects 10 LGs in Kano for intervention programme

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has selected 10 local government areas in Kano state for the implementation of its programme in 2018.

The UNICEF Chief of Katsina Field Office, Mrs Padmauathi Yedla disclosed during a meeting with the Kano State Government officials in Kano on Friday that the Fund would implement its programme in the areas of addressing malnutrition in children, provision of safe drinking water, health, education as well as improving access to girl-child education.

“We are going execute our education programme in six local government areas while the other programmes will be carried out in all the 10 LGAs,” she said adding that the selected local government areas include Bichi, Dawakin Tofa, Nasarawa, Kano Municipal, Ungoggo, Gaya, Takai, Sumaila, Danbatta and Gwarzo.

She said the UNICEF team had been in Kano state for five days. “We visited the selected local government areas to develop the 2018 programme. We also sat down with the officials to finalise arrangement for the take-off of the programme,” Padmauathi said.

She added that the ‘State Engagement Plan’ was expected to be signed by the Kano State Government and UNICEF officials on Wednesday next week to formalise the agreement.

Speaking, the state Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Murtala Sule-Garo said the state government would collaborate with UNICEF in four key areas this year.

He listed the areas to include: education, Nutrition, reducing early marriage as well as on routine immunization.

The Commissioner added that the Fund had also agreed to select five local government areas to provide 100 additional boreholes in each of the areas.

“They have given us the criteria for selection of the areas which include population, N1 million counterpart funding and presence of other International Development partners.

Chairmen of the 10 local councils attended the meeting.




Scientists partner to develop sustainable cassava seed system in Nigeria

A Nigerian don, Dr Hemant Nitturkar has said that scientists and other experts in the agriculture sector were currently partnering to develop a sustainable cassava seed system in order to solve the problem of low productivity of the crop.

Speaking on Friday at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan during the annual meeting of the project tagged: “Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System (BASICS), Nitturkar, who is the Project Coordinator noted that the initiative was to set up a sustainable cassava seed system where improved seeds would be provided for farmers.

According to him, the system would benefit the full cassava seed value chain, farmers as well as communities while enhancing productivity and income, adding that the 2018 annual meeting was to develop shared understanding of the cross-cutting dependencies among breeders, foundation and commercial seed producers as well as to agree on quantities of seed flows over the next three years.

The coordinator further said it was to socialise and strengthen the key building blocks of seed system being developed in the project and plan for sustainability of all the key project interventions.

“Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava but productivity is very low. Nigeria loses about N1trillllion due to low productivity. We hope that this project that will last between 2016 and 2019 will address low cassava productivity issue,” he said.

Also speaking, the Director-General of National Agriculture Seeds Council, Dr Olusegun Ojo said the council would do its best to ensure that farmers got improved cassava seed varieties.

“The project is going on well since its inception in 2016 and farmers are already excited with the contribution and provision of the seed council. All stakeholders in this project are working perfectly to ensure that the goal is achieved,” he said.



NiMet advises farmers to plant early maturing, drought-resistant crops in 2018

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has advised farmers in the North to plant early maturing and drought-resistant varieties of seeds so as to avoid yield loss in 2018.

NiMet gave the advice in its 2018 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) in Abuja on Friday, in which the agency said farmers in Sokoto, Katsina, Yobe, Zamfara, Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano and Borno states were likely to experience severe dry spell in June.

It explained that the dry spell might continue for 10 to 18 days after its onset and a moderate dry spell, which might last seven to 16 days, was expected in other places.

The agency also advised farmers around neighbourhoods like Yelwa, Bida and Abuja to refrain from early crop planting because of the predicted late onset dates for the 2018 farming season.

It said that the potential moisture availability during the onset period would not be sufficient enough for plant growth and development.

NiMet said that early rain cessation in areas such as Jos, Ibi and Ilorin was likely to create water stress, adding that there was, therefore, the need to supplement rain-fed agriculture with irrigation.

“Climate-smart agriculture should be encouraged, especially in the Sudano-Sahelian zone of the country through the use of economic trees like Gum Arabic, Date Palm, Shear and Jetropha, among others, for fencing.’’

NiMet said that zero tillage, mulching and other moisture conservation techniques should be adopted by farmers.

On livestock farming, NiMet warned that warmer-than-normal temperatures, predicted to occur in March and April, were expected to affect livestock production, particularly in the north-western region of the country.

It said that livestock mortality rate was expected to increase during these months due to temperature fluctuations, advising livestock farmers to acquire necessary vaccines for their animals.

NiMet also predicted that fish production was likely to be adversely affected as a result of the warmer-than-normal conditions, especially in the northern part of the country.

It urged fish farmers and aquaculture operators to take note of those areas which were predicted to have high run-offs in order to avoid associated impacts.

It, however, said that the annual rainfall amount of between 400mm to 3100mm over the country would positively impact on agriculture, power generation, recreation and manufacturing activities across the country.


Buhari approves establishment of National Food Security Council

President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the constitution of the Council’s membership, few days after he announced the intention of the Federal Government to establish a National Food Security Council.

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity), Garba Shehu said that the Council, which would “be chaired by the President, will be inaugurated on Monday. It will have as members, the Governors of Kebbi, Taraba, Plateau, Lagos, Ebonyi and Delta States.

“Other Members are the Secretary to the Government of the Federation; the Chief of Staff to the President; the National Security Adviser and seven (7) cabinet Ministers. The Ministers to be represented are for Agriculture and Rural Development; Finance; Interior; Industry, Trade and Investment; Water Resources; Environment; and Budget and National Planning,” the statement read.

It added that the National Food Security Council would also have the Chief of Defence Staff; the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria; the Directors-General of the Department of State Services and the National Intelligence Agency as well as the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service as members.

According to the statement, “The broad objectives of the Council will include, developing sustainable solutions to the farmers–herdsmen clashes; Climate Change and Desertification and their impact on farmland; grazing areas and lakes, rivers and other water bodies; oil spillage and its impact on Niger Delta Fishing Communities; piracy and banditry; agricultural research institutions and extension services and the problem of smuggling.

“The Council will also take interest in regional and global policies and trends that bear implications for food security in Nigeria.”



FG to support cotton sector to enhance productivity

The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs Aisha Abubakar has said that the Federal Government would exploit potential in the cotton sector by empowering producers to enhance their productivity.

Speaking at the 16th African Cotton Association (ACA) Annual International Congress in Abuja on Thursday, she stressed that cotton was important to the economic development of not only the individual producing countries but also to the entire African continent cannot be over emphasised.

Abubakar said that in Africa, the sector provided a means of livelihood to millions of smallholder farmers, whose economic lives revolved around the production, processing, transportation, food and non-food activities, adding that for these reasons, most countries of the world were adopting new strategies toward reviving cotton production and processing as critical element in socio-economic development, especially in rural areas.

“Cotton, no doubt offers to the African economies unprecedented opportunities for economic growth and development. Unfortunately, the sector is not making the desired impact on the economies which depend on it as a source of income and foreign exchange.

“Asia and India produce 60 per cent of global output, while Africa produces only about 16 per cent in spite of our huge potential for the production. The global market value was about 1.6 trillion dollars in 2015 alone, and this shows how important the sector is to the economies of the producing countries. It, therefore, means that Africa’s quest for industrialisation can be achieved by developing this viable sector,’’ she said.

According to her, most producing countries in Africa export raw cotton with little or no value addition, which has become a major concern to us now.

“Our challenge is how to grow and process to sustain this quest. The continued export of cotton lint by Africa producers is unsustainable in view of global instability in the prices of cotton.

“The development of this sector in Africa relies on our ability to influence both its production and trade. To do this effectively, we must leverage on our potential and develop our capacities by strengthening the sector and providing producers the support to enhance competitiveness and improve technology.’’

Abubakar said that Nigeria would welcome any research findings and support innovation that would enhance the ability to develop and tap the enormous benefits of the sector from the congress.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh said that cotton was at a point one of the largest employer of labour in the country before the discovery of oil.

Represented by Mr Yarima Uba, Team Leader of Cotton Value Chain in the ministry, Ogbeh said that the country’s current seed cotton production stood at 98,000 to 112,000 tonnes, while cotton lint was about 70,000 to 80,000 tonnes.

According to him, cotton crop was seen as the most miraculous natural fibre under the sun and it is referred to as white gold in the country.

He explained that the current trend in the international oil market had resulted in the urgent need to diversify the revenue base of the country’s economy and conserve foreign reserve by limiting imported goods.

The minister assured the stakeholders of government’s commitment to provide enabling environment through policies and incentives that would attract private sector investment in the country.

In his remarks, Mr Abubakar Moriki, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Industry said that there was a sharp decrease in cotton farming.

He said that statistics revealed that the contribution of the sector to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell from about 25 per cent in 1980 to about five per cent according to recent indicator.

“This sharp decline has been due to lack of mechanisation of the production process, lack of improved cotton seed, diseases and inconsistent government policies.’’

He advised government to invest in cotton production and provide not only the necessary enabling environment but improve the process of production through modern mechanisation as a panacea to boosting production in the country.

The congress with the theme: “Mechanised Cotton Farming: Essential Requirement to Boost Africa Cotton Production’’, brought stakeholders across Africa countries to brainstorm on the way forward in the sector.