The Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Rahamon Bello, said that no fewer than 50 million Nigerians are suffering from allergic reactions particularly asthma.
Bello made the call during the One Day Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) sponsored Pre-Project Workshop on “The Allergenic Activities of Pollen and Spores of Nigerian Plants and their Spatial Pattern” at University of Lagos.
Bello said that it has not only become a national problem but international and the evidence from patients and stakeholders agree that access to diagnosis, treatment, education, information and continued research should be a priority for health authorities.
He added that organised platform is for scientific gathering and intellectual interaction towards generating blue prints and communiqué that will rescue our country and the world from the challenging realities of allergenic reactions.
The Vice Chancellor said that Nigeria like other countries in the world is directly exposed to climate change through change in weather pattern. Many Nigerians have allergic diseases and in the last 20 to 30 years the prevalence of allergic diseases has escalated significantly, a trend that shows no signs of abating and the urban dwellers mainly affected.
“As the wind direction changes and the Harmattan season sets in, there is a lot of dust in the environment accompanied by release of pollens from flowers. Consequently, this triggers allergy in form of sneezing and itching of the eyes and skin in some individuals,” said Bello.
He continued: “The socio-economic burden of allergy is enormous and different from other diseases as it requires expensive short term treatment. The real public health cost is the drain on resources over a prolonged period, as lives of the sufferer, may be impaired for several decades. Children with allergic symptoms have difficulty with learning and even adults may underperform professionally. When symptoms are severe and effective treatment is not available to patients, working days may be compromised and even lost.” He commended the University of Lagos for being at fore front of providing solutions to various national and developmental issues and also the TETFund for their sponsorship available for training, conference attendance, institutional research and national research.
Deputy Vice Chancellor on Research and Academics Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe in his own account said that the essence of the workshop is to look at the effect of pollen grains we have in the atmosphere either from grass or spores, its effects that people tend to react to. He said the effects of allergy could result to cough, sneezing and conjunctivitis and also lead to loose of productivity.
“Very soon we will release the result we got and we will make sure that people can take care of themselves,” said Ogundipe.
He commended the efforts of TETFund saying: “Concerning funding of research in Nigeria Universities they are really trying. The money, you might say it is not enough but they are trying. We have about four projects that we are running under TETFund. There is need for government to fund research, more research work. There is need for us to look inward because if there is no research there won’t be innovation.”
Guest speaker, Prof. Adebisi Sowunmi, whose lecture pinpointed the role of pollen in healthcare delivery and socio-economic development in Nigeria.
She said that pollen grains regardless of its negative effects, could also boast of its importance especially in this time of economic recession.
Sowunmi explained that allergic pollen in atmosphere reacts with antigen in contact with the skin, mucosa of eyes and nose and the respiratory system which reacts with immune system and then allergy symptoms like skin rash, conjunctivitis, runny nose coughing erupt and this can be regarded as Socio economic effects of pollen.