Odeleke Maryam Omotola
Medicine and Surgery Student
Odeleke Maryam Omotola is a Third Year Medicine and Surgery student at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She is a Health and Gender issues content writer, gender equality advocate and serial volunteer.
She is an ardent advocate of the Sustainable Development Goals and a young leader. She currently volunteers with 5 Nongovernmental organizations, one of which is a Mental Health Organization where she is trained to offer pro bono counselling services to people with mental health issues. A 2020 Millennium Fellow, she is also the convener of The Future Female Network; a social impact initiative accelerating progress towards the achievement of SDG 5 (gender equality).
What inspired you to enter the World NTD Day Story telling competition?
Stories. While growing up, I had heard stories about a certain disease that required the victim being banished and separated from families and friends. The stories told how untouchable the victims were, how they must be avoided at all costs and how the disease was incurable. This disease being referred to is LEPROSY. These stories also included other diseases such as River Blindness, Elephantiasis etc and told commonly held beliefs about them. I believed these stories at that time.
On getting older and beginning my health studies in university, I got to know that the supposed facts from these stories were very untrue and superstitious. Contributing to the eradication of fallacious and mythical popularly believed pieces of information about NTDs inspired me to enter the competition. These popular stories I heard as a child inspired me to pass the important and correct message about NTDs being curable and the urgent need to stop tearing families apart and maltreating victims.
Why does fighting NTDs matter to you?
NTDs rank among the four most devastating groups of communicable diseases. They cause severe pain and long-term disability and lead to death for more than 170,000 people per year. Affecting the world’s poorest people, NTDs impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to mother and child illness and death, make it difficult to work and earn a living. As a result, NTDs trap the poor in a cycle of disease and poverty by disfiguring and disabling, keeping children out of school and parents out of work – limiting their capability.
Studies have also shown that NTD treatment is the single most cost effective means of improving children’s attendance and increasing capacity to learn and concentrate in school. It is very evident that NTDs take a great toll on the progress of our economies, education, health and value of life. Ensuring their elimination will not only make living easier but also contribute to the attainment of a sustainable future for all us.
How do you intend on continuing the fight against NTDs after this competition?
By continuing to speak up and spread correct information about NTDs. Also, I plan to volunteer with groups organizing awareness campaigns to speak to people about these diseases.
What would be your request to your country’s leaders regarding fighting NTDs?
First, To fund and encourage groups investigating cost-effective and sustainable solutions needed to control and ultimately eliminate the NTDs. Also, more attention should be paid to organising more research-guided NTDs awareness campaigns to encourage people to take preventative treatments for the diseases which includes river blindness, schistosomiasis and lymphatic filariasis.
Lastly, More messages, flyers, and posters about the diseases, debunking myths surrounding them, preventive methods and medication used to treat the diseases should be provided and made available to the people.