NOA: The Voicelessness Of A Bedridden Agency, Lassa Fever In Sight
The National Orientation Agency, NOA, across the Nigerian State portrays the warden’s bedridden and voiceless wife who suffered from a disease of the spinal breakdown.
In recent times, NOA has to fall to a blinking gravely direction with no real relevance to the society and its Corporate existence particularly to the reason why it was established.
Like NOA, Like Water Board and other ailing Agencies, their failures have become monumental historic adventures, without clear direction, yet, monthly feeding on taxpayers income with maximal service delivery.
For the records, NOA is the body tasked with communicating government
policy, staying abreast of public opinion and promoting
patriotism, national unity, and development of Nigerian society.
Although the motto on its website states: “Do the right thing: transform Nigeria.” Its specific objectives were set out in Decree 100 of 1993.
Unarguably, this agency set up to manage the information system has become part of the numerous setbacks in national advancement.
For a reason unknown to many, they have become moribund and grasping for survival.
Successive Governments have failed to turn on, it relative relevance amidst huge yearly budgets’ allocation.
With time fading, nobody has taken a step to tell Nigerians the real bug on the skin of the falling agency.
Federal information agencies are bogged down by inadequate funding, obsolete equipment, and poorly remunerated manpower despite their statutory roles of communicating government policies and programmes to the Nigerian public.
A senior official of one of the agencies, who declined being named because he’s not permitted to speak, told Naija Center News that; “These public agencies are so under-funded to the extent that they can’t even aid the government to communicate its programmes and policies to the Nigerian society as it should be,”
Naija Center News analysis of budgetary allocations of the five public-funded information agencies revealed that in 2018, their total allocation was N26.3 billion.
The five agencies are all under the federal ministry of information and culture.
The National Orientation Agency may have worked on a variety of issues, including health, cooperation with non-governmental organizations, and prevention of electoral violence in time past but at minimal values.
Today, Lassa fever disease no which was first discovered in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state in 1969 after a white missionary woman fell sick, is spreading across many states with statistics indicating growing records of death.
By some sorts, an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 infections of Lassa fever occur annually, with approximately 5,000 deaths. Surveillance for Lassa fever is not standardized; therefore, these estimates are crude.
From 1 January through 25 February 2018, 1,081 suspected cases and 90 deaths have been reported from 18 states (Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekite, Federal Capital Territory, Gombe, Imo, Kogi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, Rivers, and Taraba).
During this period, 317 cases have been classified as confirmed and eight as probable, including 72 deaths (case fatality rate for confirmed and probable cases = 22%). A total of 2845 contacts have been identified in 18 states.
Fourteen health care workers have been affected in six states (Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Kogi, Nasarawa, and Ondo), with four deaths (case fatality rate= 29%). As of 18 February, four out of the 14 health care workers were confirmed positive for Lassa fever.
According to officials Recent record of the outbreak, shows that at least 24 people were killed in five states since the beginning of the new year.
Over 100 patients have also been quarantined in designated treatment centres across the country after infected with the disease caused by a virus from rodent urine.
On Friday, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said in a statement on its website that the highest casualties were recorded in southwestern Ondo state with 16 deaths. There are also 84 cases reported.
Latest figures from the Lassa fever Situation Report published, yesterday, by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) showed that in 2020, there are 398 suspected cases, 163 confirmed incidences and 24 deaths, with Case Fatality Ratio (CFR) of 15.7 percent in nine states and 32 Local Government Areas (LGAs).
However, according to the NCDC report, in the third week of January 2020, the number of confirmed cases has increased from 64 cases in the first week to 81. These were reported from six states, including Edo, Delta, Taraba, Plateau and Bauchi.
Despite warnings by experts that there may be increased in cases of infectious diseases, such as Lassa fever (LF), cerebrospinal meningitis and flu during the dry season- November to March- no fewer than 163 Nigerians have been infected and 25 others lost their lives to the epidemic in disease in 2020.
The primary Organization who is saddled with the responsibility of reducing disaster occurrences through sustained prevention awareness creation has done little to create such grounds.
Thereby, living citizens vulnerable to the creepy scourge to perforate its host.
Recently the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA) Dr Garba Abari received in audience delegation from Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development led by the Director, Disaster Management, Dr Dorothy Nwodo which partnership is aimed at reducing the mortality rate.
The partnership is said to be aimed at reducing to the barest minimum human-related disaster which many stakeholders blame on lack of adequate prevention awareness on the part of citizens.
Dr Abari recalled humanitarian activities involving him and the Honorable Minister of FMHDSD, Sadiya Umar Farouq in the past, adding that past working relationship will make a partnership with her ministry much easier.
“By extension, I’m part of the ministry because of previous disaster and humanitarian activities with the Hon. Minister, Sadiya Farouq in whom I have confidence for optimal performance in respect of the mandate of the ministry,” Abari.
Abari reminded the visitors that the NOA is not just present in all 774 LGAs, in Nigeria but it’s an Agency that takes into consideration essence of recruiting and deploying staff with regard to local dialect to help the Agency communicate better with locals.
Earlier, the Director of Disaster Management of the Ministry, Dr Dorothy Nwodo said NOA is very important and strategic to the ministry because of its presence throughout the federation, adding that the Ministry believes that most disasters occur in local areas where disaster prevention awareness is limited.
“Disaster is an aspect of our brand new ministry and we are here to formally introduce ourselves to the NOA with a view to creating needed awareness to forestall disasters in Nigeria.” – Nwodo.
Lassa fever is a major public health challenge in West Africa, with Nigeria bearing the highest burden. It is an acute viral haemorrhagic fever (VHF) caused by the Lassa virus. The natural reservoir for the virus is the Mastomys natalensis rodent (commonly known as the multimammate rat). Other rodents that carry the virus have also been identified.
Epidemiological data show that Lassa fever occurs throughout the year, but more cases are recorded during the dry season i.e. November through May.
This is an advisory to health care workers, to prevent person to person transmission of Lassa fever especially in health care settings.
Lassa fever is spread through; Direct contact with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rodents Ingesting food and drinks contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats.
Contact with objects, household items or surfaces contaminated with urine, faeces, saliva or blood of infected rats.
Person-to-person transmission can also occur through contact with blood, urine, faeces, vomitus and other body fluids of an infected person, particularly in a hospital environment where infection prevention and control practices are not optimal.
Signs and symptoms of Lassa Fever early stages present initially, like other febrile illness such as malaria.
Symptoms of the disease generally include fever, headache, sore throat, general body weakness, cough, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle pains, chest pain, and in severe cases; unexplainable bleeding from ears, eyes, nose, mouth, vagina, anus and other body orifices.
It could also present as persistent bleeding from sites of intravenous cannulation.
The incubation period (time between infection and appearance of symptoms of the disease) is 3 to 21 days. Early diagnosis and treatment increase the chances of survival.
Inappropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks and poor IPC practices, increase the risk of person to person transmission of Lassa fever. Other risk factors that can lead to health care worker infection include:
Doctors, nurses and other health workers providing direct patient care without standard precautions.
Hospital support staff cleaning or disinfecting contaminated surfaces, materials and supplies without adequate protective gear.
Laboratory staff handling blood samples of patients without appropriate precautions.
Medical or hospital support staff preparing and/or handling dead bodies of Lassa fever patients without appropriate precautions.
To reduce the risk of Lassa fever, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) offers the following advice to all health care workers:
Practice standard precautions at all times while handling patients and body fluids i.e. always perform hand hygiene at the designated five moments, wear the correct PPE based on the procedure to be performed, irrespective of the provisional diagnosis of the patient.
Appropriately dispose and disinfect items used by Lassa fever patients such as syringes, thermometers, beddings, clothing, cups, plates, spoons, etc. Ensure injectables and sharp items are disposed of safely.
Clean the hospital environment regularly using appropriate materials and methods.
Dispose of all healthcare waste in a safe manner.
Maintain a high index of suspicion for Lassa fever i.e. be vigilant and look out for Lassa fever symptoms. Remember, not all fevers are due to malaria.
Test all suspected cases of malaria using Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT). When the RDT is negative, other causes of febrile illness including Lassa fever should be considered and cases investigated accordingly.
To effect the implementation of these awareness drives by disease control, NOA, and other relevant agencies must step up to carry out on-site advocacies in collaboration with, predominantly Market heads, where the disease is likely contracted, Community heads, Royal Fathers, CSOs, faith base Organizations, Religious leaders, and other relevant stakeholders.
It must wake up to its responsibilities, not in front of newspapers, but practically face to face with concerned society.
Government must stop playing God and face reality by showing more commitment in providing adequate funding to the various agencies saddled with the dissemination of relevant information that will create preventive awareness.