Lassa Fever: Health Officials Diverting Foreign Funds, Says Agbonlahor
"SAN FRANCISCO, February 14, (THEWILL) - Officials of the Federal Ministry of Health have been accused of diverting funds donated by foreign donors for the establishment of Lassa fever laboratories in each zones of the federation.
Former vice chancellor of the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, who is also a professor of Microbiology, Prof. Dennis Agbonlahor, who made the accusation, said the funds collected by some ministry’s officials were never accounted for.
Speaking on the topic "Lassa Fever: A 44-year old Deadly Public Health Burden in Nigeria" at the 10th College Guest Lecture organised by the University of Benin College of Medical Sciences, Agbonlahor maintained that the Nigerian government was yet to show enough commitment towards Lassa fever eradication over the years because of lack of funding and political will to tackle the prevalence of the pandemic in Nigeria.
He stated that Lassa fever has claimed more lives than more other publicised infectious diseases such as meningitis, HIV/AIDs, acute diarrhea among others.
The professor, who said over 100,000 lives have been lost to Lassa fever between 1969 and 2013, added that many unrecorded deaths occurred in rural areas.
According to Agbonlahor, 23 States in Nigeria were affected by Lassa fever in 2012 out of which 87 deaths were recorded. He disclosed further that between January 1 and February 4 2012, nine states were affected by Lassa fever.
He noted that multinationals and western countries have showed little or no interest or financial commitment to Lassa fever eradication because they look at the disease as a regional problem that is mainly endemic in West Africa.
He said Lassa fever cases were confirmed in Nigeria 39 years after its first outbreak in 1969 because there was no adequate laboratory diagnostic facility for confirming suspected cases .
"We have not yet as a nation been able to collect accurate epidemiological data on the distribution, rodent typing and rodents' Lassa viral carriage according to geo-political zones and states in Nigeria", he stressed, adding "This is because our various research proposals on this subjects over the years are yet to be funded.”
Agbonlahor, who urged the Federal Government to establish zonal diagnostic offices for Lassa fever and show more interest and concern in controlling and eradicating the disease, said vaccination against Lassa fever in the country has not been possible due to lack of funding and political will."