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Former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo concerned about chronic diseases in Nigeria. He emphasizes that we cannot afford to wait.

A Responsiblity to Safeguard Health

 
As the leader of the most populous country in Africa, I carry a responsibility to safeguard and improve the health, security and prosperity of Nigeria’s people. I have looked at the facts contained in this report and I can see that to meet these challenges I will have to address chronic diseases. It is widely known that HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and child and maternal health problems cost our nation dearly. But it is less well understood that diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes already have a significant impact and that, by 2015, chronic diseases will be a leading cause of death in Nigeria.
 
In the majority of cases these are preventable, premature deaths and they are undermining our efforts to increase life expectancy and the economic gro
wth of our country. We cannot afford to say, 'we must tackle other diseases first – HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis – then we will deal with chronic diseases'. If we wait even 10 years, we will find that the problem is even larger and more expensive to address. Prosperity is bringing to our nation many benefits, but there are some changes that are not positive. As our diets and habits are changing, so are our waist lines. Already, more than 35% of women in Nigeria are overweight; by 2010 this number will rise to 44%. We do not need to say, 'we are a poor nation, we cannot afford to deal with chronic diseases'. As this report points out, there are low-cost, effective measures that any country can take. We must tackle this problem step by step and we must start now. Governments have a responsibility to support their citizens in their pursuit of a healthy, long life. It is not enough to say, 'we have told them not to smoke, we have told them to eat fruit and vegetables, we have told them to take regular exercise'. We must create communities, schools, workplaces and markets that make these healthy choices possible.
 
I believe, and the evidence supports me, that there are clear links between health, economic development and poverty alleviation. If my government and I are to build a strong Nigeria, and if my brothers and sisters throughout Africa are to create a strong continent, then we must include chronic diseases in our thinking. Let us use this report as a wake-up call. If we take action now, it could be that the predictions outlined in these analyses never come true. I will join with the World Health Organization to implement the changes necessary in Nigeria, in the hope that we, too, can contribute towards achieving the global goal of reducing chronic disease death rates by 2% per year over the next 10 years, saving 36 million lives by 2015. That would be the most important inheritance we could pass on to our children".

 

 
Olusegun OBASANJO
Former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria
Supporting statement
 
Culled from "Preventing Chronic Diseases: A Vital Investment (2005)" 
 
View the full report here: http://www.who.int/chp/chronic_disease_report/full_report.pdf
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