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40m Nigerians affected by river blindness, says minister

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About 40 million Nigerian rural dwellers are affected with sleeping sickness otherwise known as trypanosomiasis, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, has said

Onu disclosed this during the commissioning of the North-East zonal office of the Nigerian Institute for Trypanosomiasis Research (NITR), in Gombe at the weekend.

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According to a statement signed on Sunday in Abuja by the Director of Press in the ministry, AbdulGaniyu Aminu, Onu said trypanosomiasis disease affects both humans, animals and inflicting a great socio-economic loss to the country.

“There is no gainsaying the fact that river blindness is a devastating disease that impacts on the economy as well as education of school-age children who instead of being at school will be shepherding their blind parents and relations in villages and towns,” he said.

He added that the disease, which is often referred to as the disease of the rural poor affects mostly farmers, fishermen, tourists, and cattle readers.

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The minister further said that about 19.5 million cattle, 22 million sheep, and 34 million goats are at the risk of infection.

“The disease reduces milk and meat protein carcass weight, calving rates, and hides skins production with an increase in abortion infertility and stillbirth,’’ he added.

Onu noted that the cost of drugs used in treating the disease is enormous, adding that the North-East will derive a lot of socio-economic benefits with the presence of the zonal office in Gombe.

He added that Gombe state was chosen in siting the zonal office because Gombe is well known for its large cattle population as well as other ruminants, stressing that the zonal office will also go a long way in helping livestock farmers when cattle ranches are eventually established in the country.

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