- Onchocerciasis control is a widespread challenge in Nigeria, with a need for treatment programs as well as increased community awareness of how to prevent it.
- Trachoma, the leading infectious cause of preventable blindness, is also prevalent in Nigeria.
What HKI Is Doing
Helen Keller International began working in Nigeria in June 1999 and its programs benefit over 11 million people. HKI Nigeria's 2011 Annual Report describes recent accomplishment, and current programs include:
Vitamin A Supplementation
Helen Keller International works closely with the government of Nigeria to ensure high coverage of more than 80% of the target population with vitamin A. HKI has supported the training of health workers, program monitoring, community education and the delivery of vitamin A capsules. In the spring of 2009, during the National Immunization Plus Days, more than 2 million children aged 6-59 months received vitamin A supplementation in Adamawa, Akwa Ibom and Borno States.
Since 2001, HKI has integrated vitamin A supplementation into Community Directed Treatment with Ivermectin (CDTI) as a cost-effective, sustainable strategy and a strong platform for community mobilization. Vulnerable groups, including children 6-59 months old and post-partum women within 8 weeks of delivery, are targeted. The program was initiated in Adamawa, Borno and Akwa Ibom States and has since expanded to cover seven additional other states. The program reached over 5.3 million children and has benefitted nearly 300,000 post-partum mothers since its inception.
HKI’s onchocerciasis control program helps establish CDTI programs to deliver Mectizan® to infected and threatened populations in the Adamawa, Akwa Ibom and Borno States of Nigeria. Helen Keller International closely collaborates with the Government of Nigeria, the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) and the endemic communities. Treatments for the target populations doubled from 402,034 in 1998 to 978,819 in 1999. Since then, there has been a steady increase in the number of health workers and Community Directed Distributors trained, with a corresponding increase in the number of people treated. These efforts have also resulted in better community awareness of the disease. Currently, the onchocerciasis control program reaches over 1.9 million people each year.
Helen Keller International leads National Health efforts in trachoma control through implementation of the SAFE strategy. HKI’s activities include community mobilization and education, community-based screenings, antibiotic treatments, and eyelid surgery for trichiasis, the final blinding stage of trachoma. Trachoma is endemic in Adamawa and Borno States, which lie in the WHO-designated “trachoma belt” of Africa.
From 2000 to 2008, HKI screened 308,532 people from 539 communities in Nigeria; 17,098 people who had active trachoma were treated with 1% tetracycline eye ointment. In addition, 1,979 cases of trichiasis cases were found, and 1,246 people, or 1,861 eyes, most of whom were women, had successful eyelid surgery. In Borno State, HKI created environmental improvements for ten primary schools by providing ventilated pit latrines.