The Amaka Chiwuike-Uba Foundation (ACUF), a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), says poverty, gaps in care and other factors are affecting asthma management within the country.
The Foundation also called on the federal government, concerned authorities, health philanthropists and civil society organisations (CSOs) for urgent intervention.
This is contained in a statement issued by the Foundation’s Board Chairman, Dr Chiwuike Uba, made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Enugu on Monday.
Uba spoke on the sidelines of the commemoration of 2022 World Asthma Day (WAD), which is celebrated every first Tuesday of May each year to raise awareness on asthma worldwide.
The theme for the 2022 World Asthma Day is ‘Closing the Gaps in Asthma Care’.
Uba said that there was critical gap for public and health professional’s awareness, and understanding of asthma, “which are reflected in some of the policies currently in place in Nigeria”.
The chairman, who lamented gas flaring in Nigeria, said “97 per cent of Nigeria’s population is not covered by any kind of health insurance, while out of pocket expenses account for 77 per cent of total health spending in Nigeria”.
He noted that due to increasing poverty and the lack of access and affordability of asthma medications in Nigeria, the level of asthma control in Nigeria is poor, resulting to high burden of asthma symptoms, mortality and limitation in activities.
He said: “Asthma is a long-term, non-curable, non-communicable disease that affects people around the world and across all age groups, genders and ethnicity.
“Currently, more than 15 million Nigerians with about 5-10 per cent of children in any given community suffer from asthma. This number is set to increase to over 100 million by 2025.
“Globally, asthma is one of the world’s most common long-term conditions and currently affects over 339 million people worldwide.
“As the 14th most important disorder in terms of global years lived with a disability, an additional 100 million people are expected to be affected by the disease by 2025.
“According to the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), existing gaps include unequal access to diagnosis and treatment (medicine), particularly between care for different socioeconomic, ethnic and age groups.
“In addition, gaps exist in communication and care between primary/secondary/tertiary care, education for people with asthma and health care providers, among others.
“Additionally, there is a critical gap for the general public (non-asthmatic) and the health professional’s awareness and understanding that asthma is a chronic (non-acute) disease”.
Uba said that reducing levels of atmospheric pollution, Nigeria can reduce the burden of the disease caused by asthma, adding that overall framework for managing asthma requires considerable attention to environmental exposures (indoor and outdoor) and control practices.
He said: “Specifically, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons from fossil fuel combustion from vehicular traffic and second-hand smoke from automobile exhaust are associated with an increase in asthma symptoms.
“Moreover, sulphur dioxide (SO2) mainly formed by the combustion of coal or petroleum with high sulphur content has been allowed to continue in Nigeria for so long.
“One good example is continuous gas flaring in Nigeria.
“It is worrisome that currently, there is no well-articulated and followed-through government policy to reduce the level of pollution in Nigeria, even when Nigeria was rated as the most polluted country in the world as of 2015.”