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Nigeria And The Race To End Tuberculosis

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By 2030, Nigeria plans to achieve zero Tuberculosis (TB) cases. ODIRI UCHENUNU-IBEH writes on what is required to achieve the set goal.

Tuberculosis (TB), an airborne disease that respects no man, has become a global threat in recent time. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that more than 1.6 billion people, about a third of the world’s population, are infected with TB.

In 2017, WHO reports that 9.6 million people developed clinical TB and the disease killed about 1.6 million people compared to 1.2 million killed by HIV. 95 per cent of these deaths occurred in the developing world with the majority in Sub Saharan Africa.

In Africa, Nigeria has the sixth burden of TB in the world and the first in Africa with Lagos state having the highest burden of TB in the country.

According to the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria, each day, nearly 4500 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.

The agency revealed  “Over 95 per cent of TB deaths occurs in low and middle-income countries especially in Africa.TB kills 18 Nigerians every hour. 47 Nigerians develop active TB, seven of which are children, every hour. One of the major challenges of TB response in Nigeria is attributed to low TB case finding both in adult and children. This is attributed partly to poor knowledge about TB that influence the health seeking behaviour of people, and low TB treatment coverage.

This is indeed a nightmare and in a bid to savage the epidemic, governments from over 163 countries, including the federal government of Nigeria, in 2015 promised to end TB by 2030.

Unfortunately, at the current rate of TB decline which is at 1.5 percent, it seems impossible to achieve the set goal before the end of the sustainable development goal.

However, stakeholders who spoke with LEADERSHIP, at the Dinner Forum with corporate sector on mobilizing domestic resources to end TB in Nigeria, said Nigeria can only achieve that set goal if it increase domestic funding and embark on a massive awareness campaign.

The First Lady of Nigeria, Dr. Mrs. Aisha Buhari said TB can be eradicated with the required political will and adequate funding.

Mrs Buhari said the Muhammadu Buhari-led government has made efforts at tackling the scourge of TB especially in infants by introducing a paediatric anti-TB formulation for drug susceptible TB in Children.

In order to achieve early detection, the government has set up machineries to move from passive to active case-finding amongst affected population, says the First Lady. “To this end, machineries have been set up to look at people living with HIV/AIDS, rural dwellers, urban slum dwellers, prisoners, migrants, internally displaced persons and facility based care workers. The goal is to identify risk areas and contain the scourge before it spreads.

“We know there are still grounds to cover, but efforts are being made and progress recorded. Defeating TB is not a one man’s job, but a collective effort which should involve both the government and the citizens playing their part actively,” she added.

While the government should come up with policies and strengthen the health centres to address the scourge, Mrs. Buhari urged citizens to embrace safe practices that are geared towards preventing the disease and those affected should go for treatments. She said more focus should be intensify in the areas of advocacy and sensitization of the public.

In the same vein, the executive director, global stop TB partnership, Geneva, Dr, Lucica Ditiu, said currently, Nigeria is receiving international fundings to end TB, but international funding will not be forever, so it it time for the government to increase domestic funding for TB, if the country must achieve the target of ending TB by 2030.

Board Chair, Stop TB Partnership, Nigeria said the total funding from the federal government of Nigeria and international donors for the countries of TB in Nigeria is only about 24 per cent of what is required if the country is to end TB in 2030. “Where is the country going to get the 76 per cent from,” he added.

He appealed to the cooperate sector like the financial, manufacturing, telecommunication, oil and gas companies to play a critical role through their corporate social responsibility to support efforts in ending the needless deaths from a curable disease affecting Nigeria.

“The media should also create more awareness and sensitize the public on the need to seek medical attention if coughing for more than two weeks. When we went round homes looking for TB patients, we found out that more patients from home than those who have presented themselves for treatment in the hospitals. So the media need to create that awareness,” he added.

Programme Director, Development Communications (DevComs) Network, Akin Jimoh said now is the time to shout about tuberculosis, what it is and the fact that anyone can be infested by TB.

Jimoh said, “We need to shout about it and let people know that we have a threat and that threat is all around us. When you combine every other diseases together, TB is the highest killer and we need to address it.”

As for Nigerians that are living with TB, the programme director said, “We are also pleading with stakeholders to come to their aids, because when one is affected, he loses revenue and after treatment, that person may also need the right nutrition to boost his immune system, we need to be our brother’s keeper by assisting them stand on their feet when they have fully recovered.”

The National coordinator, NTBLCP, Dr. Adebola Lawanson said TB is an infectious disease that presents with cough, fever, night sweat and weight lose. “Anyone who is experiencing these symptoms should visit the nearest public health facilities. We have the latest technology that can detect it,” she added.

Lawanson said the federal government, in partnership with international donors and private sector have provided drugs, investigation and treatment that are totally free of charge, adding that Nigerians should not be scared to go for testing because TB is curable.

Speaking on preventive measures, she said, “Nigerians who have relatives that are TB patients need to go for investigation, they have to be tested, because TB is highly infectious.

“The immediate family members of Nigerians that are living with TB may likely come down with TB. Besides that, people should live in a very hygienic, clean environment. Also, Nigerians should imbibe the culture of covering their mouths when coughing.”

Speaking on what need to be done in order to achieve zero TB by 2030, Lawanson said, “Already, we have some resources provided by our partners as well as the government, so presently, we need up to over $400 million to be able to reach our target by 2030. Also, there is need for more funds and awareness to be created if we must achieve zero TB by 2030.”

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