By Francesca Iwambe, Abuja
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to commemorate the World Tuberculosis Day, (WTD), the federal government has said that about 97 percent of TB patients in the country had documented HIV results.
According to the government, this is far higher than the global and African region averages of 76 and 86 percent respectively.
The Minister of health Dr Osagie Ehanire made this disclosure during the ministerial press briefing to commemorate the WTD on Abuja on Friday.
He lamented that only one in every four Nigerians have about tuberculosis.
Represented by the state for health Mr Ekumankama Nkama, the minister who quoted the WHO global TB report said, it was unfortunate that despite free testing and medication made available in the country, Nigeria still ranked highest among countries with child TB in the world.
Ehanire who added that the country is one of the countries in the world with a great burden on TB and resistance to TB medications emphasised the need for people coughing for more than two weeks to ensure they get tested.
“TB is a curablble disease. The world TB day is a global event, the event enables us to access the progress made so far. TB is a major public health problem globally, like wise in Nigeria.
“According to WHO global TB report, Nigeria is ranked 6th in the world and first in Africa, it was revealed that there are 467,000 TB cases in Nigeria in 2021.
“Further more, it's only 1 out of every 4 Nigerians that have knowledge about TB. The federal government is committed in ensuring the end of TB in Nigeria. All the interventions of the Federal Government, is yielding positive results. We have been able to expand the TB facilities to 2, 038 in 2014 to over 20,000.
“I therefore encourage Nigerians to be their brothers keeper. Ensure that everyone around you with cough for more than two weeks to go for TB test in the nearest health facilities”, the minister said.
Similarly, the WHO Country Representative (WR) Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo who was represented by Dr Laxmikant Chavan WHO Technical Officer noted that, Nigeria at the United Nations High Level meeting (UNHLM) on TB in 2018 made a commitment to diagnose and treat 1,109,000 TB cases and place 2,183,890 clients on TB preventive Therapy (TPT) from 2018 to 2022.
He however said that after the end of 2022, Nigeria is yet to demonstrate achievements of this commitment as available reports show that the country is trailing behind in all the set targets.
He noted that, TB control budgets in Nigeria continue to be drastically underfunded.
“About 69% of the TB budget in 2021 was unfunded, this is a major threat to the country's efforts in achieving the set targets. Too many people are pushed into poverty when they contract TB due to lost income, transport costs and other expenses. 71% of the TB patients in Nigeria and their household are affected by catastrophic cost due to TB.
“WHO will continue to support Nigeria in developing and implementing guidelines, plans, framework and strategic documents to end TB epidemic in Nigeria. In addition, we will facilitate research to provide evidence-based interventions and innovations for finding the missing TB cases and enhancing the country's efforts in reaching the set targets.
“We will continue to work with the programme to build capacity of senior and middle-level managers across the states on the needed knowledge and skills for improving quality of care and data analysis towards formulating evidence-based policies for enhancing programme performance at all levels.
“In addition, we will continue to support monitoring of the programme at all levels, in rea-time, to identify challenges and advise on strategies to address the challenges.
“Finally, let me pledge WHO's continued support in strengthening partnership and innovations towards the attainment of set targets as well as leveraging on the country's primary health care strengthening initiatives to end TB epidemic in Nigeria.
“TB IS Curable and treatable; I implore anyone coughing for two weeks or more to go for TB test in the nearest health facility. We call on everyone- the donors, private sector, civil society, academia and the press to join forces in solidarity and together, “Yes, we can end TB epidemic in Nigeria”, he stated.
Also, the Deputy Director, Office of HIV/ AIDS and TB USAID Nigeria, Omosalewa Oyelaran said since 2003, Nigeria remains in the top 10 countries affected by TB, with one of the lowest detection rates globally.
She said to combat this debilitating disease, USAID collaborates with the Government of Nigeria and other national and international partners to support the National Tuberculosis Program. Since 2003, USAID has contributed more than $250 million to TB control efforts in Nigeria.
In 2022 alone, USAID programs helped screen over 15 million individuals for TB. USAID's support also includes the provision of TB screening, diagnostic, treatment, and preventive services in 18 states through community and facility-based interventions.
According to her:” In partnership with the Government of Nigeria, USAID's ‘TB Accelerator' model invested in local civil society organizations (CSOs) to increase access to quality TB prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, including multi-drug resistant TB.
“These local CSOs collaborate with the national and state TB programs to deploy, and scale, state of the art equipment and tools to improve detection of TB.
“USAID also facilitates multi-sectoral public-private partnerships to increase public awareness and advocate for domestic resources to address the TB epidemic in Nigeria. As a result, Nigeria realized a significant increase in TB case finding and treatment coverage over the past three years.
“Despite the additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have achieved significant results working together in partnership with GON and Global Fund.
“We commend the Government of Nigeria's efforts to sustain the accelerated service delivery that resulted in yearly case notification increases of 160 percent between 2019 and 2022.
“However, much remains to be done if Nigeria is to meet its TB control target of ending the TB epidemic by 2035. We must continue to work together to reach all TB patients and their contacts in Nigeria.
“However, the greatest challenge is the funding gap, which is estimated to be 70 percent of the resources needed to effectively control TB. Therefore, I call on you to mobilize domestic resources to meet this funding gap through budgetary allocations, inclusion of TB services in health insurance schemes, and enhanced private sector engagement”, she said.
The Acting Board Chair, Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Dr Queen Ogbuji in her goodwill message said out of the annual estimate of 479,000 TB cases in Nigeria, only 285,561 were notified.
According to her, its a good progress in the right direction, and considering the fact that Nigeria was able to increase its notification even when the world was grappling with COVID:19 and many countries of the world had low case notification and more TB deaths.
“The increase has been consistent since then and Nigeria needs to be applauded for this. However, a lot needs to be done to close the gap.While we commemorate, let it remain top in our minds the picture that Nigeria ranks first in Africa and sixth in the world accounting for about 4.6% of the global TB burden
“TB disease is often more severe in children with higher mortality among those less than 5 years old. The notification of children with active TB disease has remained abysmally low at only 6% of out of the annual notification.
“As the country continues to make progress to find the missing TB cases and put them on treatment, much resources is needed to accomplish this, unfortunately, of the $373 million needed for TB control in Nigeria in 2020, only 31% was available and 24% of this came from the donors, only 7% was from domestic source”, she added.