People living with Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) have called on the federal government to prioritise them among those to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when the vaccines become available in the country.
They said this is important as they have underlying conditions that make them not only susceptible but also at higher risk of becoming severely ill and dying from the virus.
Non-Communicable diseases are diseases that are non-transmittable, and have no ability to be infectious among people. They are the leading causes of death and disability worldwide, accounting for more than 70 per cent of all deaths. Above three-quarters of these deaths occur in developing countries, and four out of five die before the age 50.
The main NCDs include cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, mental health, sickle cell disease and neurological disorders such as dementia.
People Living With Non- Communicable Diseases (PLWNCDs), an arm of the NCD Alliance Nigeria, an association, in a statement said the COVID-19 second wave has caused increased morbidity among them.
While calling for an expanded response to the virus that propagates them, they called on the federal government to commit more funding to health insurance to address the COVID-19 and its secondary impact.
They also said the benefit packages of the various state health insurance schemes should be broadened to cover more NCDs. At present, the packages cover diagnosis and treatment of few NCDs – diabetes, sickle cell and high blood pressure.
They said people living with NCDs should also be prioritized in the disbursement of relief materials, palliatives and employment opportunities.
“Don’t forget us, as the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hits Nigeria, our support and protection is everyone’s business,” said Timi Edwin, a lead advocate for the PLWNCDs.
“While it is obvious that a lot of government hospitals are over-burdened, understaffed and under equipped, the PLWNCDs are making a cry to the government to build more hospitals, equip existing hospitals, as well as train personnel of primary health centres across the federation,” Edwin said.
Oti Joseph, another lead champion of PLWNCDs from Enugu State urged people living with non-communicable diseases to wear masks, avoid large gatherings, wash their hands and observe social distancing.