BY PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA,
Stakeholders in the health sector have called for increased tuberculosis (TB) case finding as disruption in healthcare services, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the TB burden in the country.
They made the call during a virtual TB media roundtable, on the theme: “Impact of COVID-19 on TB: Challenges and Opportunities for Service Delivery, Policy and Financing” help in Abuja.
The National Coordinator, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Dr. Adebola Lawanson, said that there has not been sufficient progress made in TB cases finding since the COVID 19 pandemic, adding that TB, like other diseases, has been worse hit during this period due to resource relocation and realignment for COVID-19.
She also identified multidrug-resistant tuberculosis as part of the effect of the pandemic, explaining that the impact of COVID-19 affected health facilities, monitoring and drug supervision for TB patients, as health care workers were not willing to carry out TB case finding.
Also speaking, the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative for TB, Dr. Ayodele Awe, expressed worry that much progress has not been made in TB case finding this year due to COVID 19.
According to him, “Nigeria is still missing 300,000 cases every year. We are only able to detect 25 percent of the estimated tuberculosis cases. Every LGA needs to have its own diagnostic tools. Presently, we have only 40 per cent coverage of the LGAs with GeneXpert machine.”
The focal person for TB at the Institute for Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), Aderonke Agbaje, said there was need to assess the human resources for health, both at the federal and state levels.
This, Agbaje said will ensure diseases like TB and other health issues are not being placed at the back burner in the country’s response to COVID-19.
The Country Director, USAID Health Policy Plus Project, Francesca Ilika, stressed the need for inclusion of TB in State Health Insurance Schemes, saying it will aid proper management of the disease.