World Asthma Day: Nigeria has only one respiratory doctor for every 2m people


World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that more than 100 million people could suffer from asthma in Nigeria by 2025, yet Africa’s biggest economy has only one qualified respiratory physician for every 2 million people, an expert says.

Chiwuike Uba, a policy analyst and chairman, Board of Trustees, Amaka Chiwuike-Uba Foundation (ACUF), devoted to asthma education, says poor environmental management, misdiagnosis and lack of political will by government have led to increase in mortality and morbidity rate of asthma in Nigeria. “Painfully, in Nigeria, the estimated proportion of registered respiratory physicians to national population is one per 2.3 million individuals.

This actually lends credence to the fact that part of the causes of increased mortality and morbidity is poor diagnosis traceable to poor governance and environmental management,” Uba says. The dearth of qualified physicians to attend to asthma cases, according to the Nigerian Medical Association, is as a result of brain drain in the sector that sees upwards of 300 doctors leave Nigeria to practice in foreign countries yearly. “In the last couple of years, the country’s health sector has been suffering brain drain, and a lot of good doctors and nurses have emigrated.

This lingering problem in the country has to be considered,” Lanre Yusuf, a Lagos-based medical practitioner, says. An NOIPolls survey last year revealed that the reasons for the looming brain drain in the health sector included challenges such as high taxes and deductions from salary (98%), low work satisfaction (92%), poor salaries and emoluments (91%) and the huge knowledge gap that exists in the medical practice abroad (47%), among others.

Findings show that the national annual average salary of £40,600 in United Kingdom, according to, which is about 16 million monthly while doctors in Nigeria averagely earn about N3 million a year. Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation says over 15 million Nigerians currently suffer from asthma with about 5-10 percent of children in any given community suffering from the disease.

13 states with an estimated combined population of 57.7 million have no specialist respiratory services. Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease, which affects all ages but mostly starts in childhood. It creates inflammation in the inside walls of airways which makes them very sensitive for the allergic reaction. Asthma may be caused due to genetic, environmental factors or combination of both. Almost all asthma sufferers have allergies. Some of the allergens are house dust mites in carpets, bedding and furniture, pet dander, pollens, moulds, air pollution, tobacco smoke, chemical irritants in the workplace and others. Some of the symptoms of asthma are coughing, wheezing, trouble in breathing and chest tightness. “It is worrisome that currently, there is no well-articulated and followed-through government policy in Nigeria to reduce the level of pollution in Nigeria, even when Nigeria was rated as the most polluted country in the world as at 2015,” Uba says.

He further notes that despite the availability of different asthma drugs, significant numbers of patients are still suffering from asthma while a significant number still die from the disease. “The global burden of asthma is already substantial in terms of mortality, morbidity and economic costs. The problem of air pollution in Nigeria brings to the fore lack of proper coordination between the administrative levels, political, legislative and economic interests and the citizens sensibilities. Painfully, the national and sub-national politics in Nigeria has not encouraged consolidated environmental governance.”

Uba says the country needs to address the countries challenge of environmental governance for Asthma management especially as the world marks May 1 as World Asthma Day. This year edition has the theme, “Never too early, never too late. It’s always the right time to address airways disease.” The theme calls out to both patients and healthcare providers to consider and evaluate symptoms, irrespective of the time when they occur. The idea is to ensure that asthma is controlled and prevented in all possible ways. Asthma as one of the world’s most common long-term conditions is currently affecting over 300 million people worldwide and projected to increase by another 100 million people by the year 2025. As a non-curable disease, management strategies are geared towards controlling the disease to reduce the associated morbidity and mortality.



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2018-05-01 00:00
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