By Ndey Sowe
The President of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of West Africa (AAFWA) has said one of the major objectives of their foundation is to help asthma patients cope with the safety regulations put in place as part of efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic that has ravaged the world since 2020.
Sheku Wai in an interview with this reporter on Friday at his office in Latrikunda Sabiji, lamented asthma patients are among the most hard-hit by the Covid-19 regulations, which among other things, require that people wear face masks. He said this affects asthma patients, especially those with severe strain of the disease.
“Asthma is a lung disease characterised by breathing difficulties. Some people with asthma may experience discomfort or have trouble breathing while wearing a face mask. For people with very mild asthma or well-controlled asthma, wearing of face masks is probably not going to be an issue. However, for people who have very severe disease and have frequent exacerbations, hospitalizations, require lots of medications and frequent symptoms, it might cause more issues for those folks,” he explained.
President Wai advised asthmatics not to use masks that are made of fabric that makes it hard to breathe, such as vinyl. He also advised those unable to wear mask because of severe asthma or breathing distress, to protect themselves from COVID-19 in other ways by staying at home as much as possible, while asking others to run errands or shop for them, keep a physical distance of about six feet from others when in public, avoid crowds as much as possible, and avoid travel that is not necessary.
Wai disclosed that May is recognized globally as World Asthma Month, with the first Tuesday of May as World Asthma Day. He said AAFWA plans to mobilize asthma and allergy patients in The Gambia to join the rest of the World in observing the event, a key component being to help members live through the challenge of Covid-19.
He further explained that AAFWA serves as a platform for people with asthma and allergies to come together and work for their collective interest as well as offer voluntary medical services for people with asthma and allergies to assist them to be healthy, become pro-active, productive and self-reliant within the society.
The AAFWA president said their foundation will regularly update data on the true prevalence of asthma in The Gambia so that Government becomes aware of the implications of the increasing disease burden and to investigate the relative importance of underlying risk factors such as rising urbanization in their policy and health planning responses to this challenge.
“We will educate asthma patients on how to treat and control asthma, for example, on what to do if they have an attack while not having an inhaler with them at that point in time and work to ensure that medication and medical equipment like inhalers and nebulizers are readily available to people with asthma. We will also identify, plan and manage community projects aimed at promoting quality of life and the socio-economic welfare of people with asthma and allergies, ensure a better indoor environment devoid of pollution in schools and workplaces, as well as raise awareness about important allergy-friendly features,” he said.