By Justina Auta
The Federal Government and Sightsavers Nigeria, an NGO, have called for increased awareness of Female Genital Schistosomiasis (FGS) one of the Neglected Tropical Diseases ( NTDs) affecting the reproductive system of women and girls.
They made the call at the sideline of the FGS research findings in Ogun and Kebbi states dissemination meeting held in Abuja.
Dr Obiageli Nebe, Director, Federal Ministry of Health and Co-Principal Investigator FGS Survey, said the research was to create more awareness on the burden of the disease, its prevalence, and action needed to tackle it.
Nebe said that FGS has been existing in local communities for a long time, however, poor awareness rates and inadequate Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities have increased its prevalence and increased risk of female reproductive disease in the country.
“This disease condition is reproductive as well as psychological issue, so we need every stakeholder and partners and those in other health systems to tackle this disease,” she said.
She noted the importance of data collation to enable stakeholders to monitor interventions, progress, and the need for assessments for the effective elimination of all NTDs.
A group photograph of the researchers (Sightsavers research leads), Gynaecologists, stakeholders from state and federal ministry of health, Sightsavers staff
” We need to share the data on those communities that are endemic for NTDs so that when the ministry of water resources is prioritising areas to intervene in water services, they would prioritise NTDs endemic communities.
” Because without water we will not be able to eliminate the NTDs,” she said.
Nebe, highlighted the need to sensitise communities on the causes, treatment, and preventive measures to curtail NTDs.
” You cannot just walk into a community and tell them not to use the water that they have been using for decades.
” You must provide an alternative water source and a lot of health education and let them know the problems that the water sources they have is causing and why they should not use that water, while other sources are made available to them to utilise.”
She appealed for more fund allocation and support to eliminate NTDs in the country.
Also, Dr Abdussalam Hameedat, Consultant with Sightsavers, revealed that FGS is usually contracted by bodily contact with water bodies, streams,
lakes or rivers.
” So anybody who has ever had skin contact with those is at risk of contracting schistosomiasis and schosomiasis itself actually affects both males and females.
” And the classical symptoms really is where affected people have blood in their urine. So it’s something that has been linked to bladder carcinoma, that is cancer of the bladder in men and also in
” It’s more of a concern in the reproductive age groups because even though this disease does not kill these patients, it can actually affect their quality of life and create a very huge morbidity in them.
” So we have symptoms like recurrent vaginal discharges, bleeding, abnormal vaginal bleeding, painful sex, ectopic pregnancy.
“You know, some infertility have been linked and associated with FGS. And so it becomes a huge burden, especially in a health system where the entity of schizosomiasis itself has been considered to be one of the NTDs,”she said.
Ms Omosefe Osinoiki, Research Associate, Sightsavers, said FGS affects women of reproductive ages 15 and above.
“So, FGS is a disease that nobody talks about. It is something that affects women, especially those who are in endemic communities of schistosomiasis.
” It will be endemic in communities where you have water bodies, where they engage most of their daily activities along with water bodies, where it could be used for washing, bathing, fetching, swimming.
” So it can be anybody so Schisto can affect anybody who engages in the water body that is infected with water-snail that carries the aumatobium that causes Schistosomiasis,” she said.
According to her,before it’s been treated in the blood of the patient, the eggs are produced 200 times, which adult ones produces 200 eggs daily, the eggs remain even if the patient is treated they move around the body and then they get stuck.
“So getting stuck in the cervical area is what causes FGS. Now, we have found that doing this study, because the world would say that Nigeria bears most of the burden in Sub Saharan Africa, however Nigeria does know how much it actually contributes.
“So this study was a way to give like a snapshot of what Nigeria contributes. So we did our study in two LGAs in Ondo State and two LGAs in Kebbi State.
“The prevalence from those LGAs tells us that the prevalence is about 41 per cent. So 41 per cent from just three LGAs of FGS. So, what does that tell us about the other LGAs across Nigeria?” she said.
She, therefore, stressed the need for more funds, awareness of FGS, a guideline on FGS for reference, behavioral change and provision of WASH facilities to eliminate all NTDs.
FGS is caused by schistosoma haematobius, a waterborne parasite, which affects both the urinary and genital tract of infected individuals, it develops over a period of time, when untreated.
Some of it’s symptoms include: vaginal discharge, blood in urine, abdominal and pelvic pain
If untreated, women living with FGS may experience infertility, abortion or ectopic pregnancy, genital ulcers, increased risk of HIV and human papillomas infections. (NAN)