WTD: Experts decry low awareness of Tuberculosis programs in Nigeria


*Takes campaign to the streets

By Francesca Iwambe,

As part of it activities lined up to commemorate the World Tuberculosis Day (WTD), key stakeholders in the nation's health sector on Wednesday embarked on an awareness campaign on the streets of Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

According to the stakeholders, even though the federal has put in place programs like free diagnosis and treatment of Tuberculosis (TB), many Nigerians were not aware of such existing programs.

The , National Programmatic Drug-resistant TB (PMDT) at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Ahmad Mohammad Ozi, while fielding questions from newsmen said, the awareness campaign was necessary hence the target of eliminating TB in by 2030 would no longer be visible.

He explained that out-of the 400 new TB cases that were detected last year, only 280 cases were notified.

“We are thinking of year 2030 to end TB but as it is we still have a long way to go in Nigeria because from what we have last year, we were able to notify over 280 new cases of TB out of about 400.

“From that you know we have covered up to about 60 per-cent of notification rate leaving about 40 percent, with that you see that we still have a long way to go.

“We are yet to meet the target for now because if we have over 400 cases of TB that we are suppose to notify and we are notifying just about 280, it means that we still have a lot of missing cases in the country.

“As you all know, the awareness of TB programs in Nigeria is very low. If we do not create this awareness, TB will continue to spread in the communities.

“It is for that reason that we have come up with activities lined up for the week to be able to sensitise the populace and the community in general.

“The walk awareness cut across the 36 states including local government areas and policies put in place by the to ensure prevention of TB in rural communities.

“Apart from prevention, we know that TB is a curable disease. So the government has earmarked some of the policies that will influence TB control.

“For instance, diagnoses of TB which is free is a policy of the government to ensure control and treatment. Diagnoses and treatment across the 36 states including the FCT is free. So, you can see, government is doing everything possible to control TB in the country”, Dr Ozi said.

On her part, Dr Bolatito Aiyenigba, Deputy Project Director for Tuberculosis and Malaria at Break Through Action Nigeria expressed worry that despite free testing and treatment for TB, many Nigerians were not aware.

She said this year's WTD, stakeholders adopted a different approach to ensure that everyone is involved adding that collaborative effort is key in fighting the menace.

“Testing and treatment for TB is free and surprisingly, many people do not know that. The national program has created a national program called ‘check am ooh' because ‘who no go no go know'. This awareness can make people realize that not every cough is covid-19 or any other cough but could be TB as well and the need to go and check and be sure of what it is to get appropriate treatment.

“What we will be doing differently this year is to get everybody involved. We want Nigerians to be advocate of TB. Be your brother's keeper. We want them to go out and tell other people and when they see other people coughing for two weeks or more, we want them to help the person to get help. We want everybody to know about the help-line 3340. We want them to know that if you go to any place and someone is charging you money, you can go and call 3340 that you want free test. We are doing this more than just a march. And we have been seeing results. Our target is 100 percent”, Dr Aiyenigba added.

Also, the Executive Director, KNCV TB Foundation Nigeria, Dr Berthrand Odume, said even though substantial progress has been made so far, a lot is still required to meet the global target for TB control in Nigeria.

While commending donor partners and government for the efforts, Dr Odume said, national programs and partners have made substantial effort as Nigeria is no longer where it was three years ago.

“Where we were three years ago is not where we are today. Case finding in Nigeria has now slashed to remain hovering around one hundred to ninety thousand. In the last three years, the national program and partners have been able to move the case detection from less than one hundred thousand to about two hundred thousand at the last reporting period. For me, that is a very substantial effort.

“In doing this, it has been able to increase treatment coverage which as at the last reporting, it was about 44 percent.

“For us to meet the global target for TB control in Nigeria, people in the rural communities need to be considered and brought on our back. This is because most of the cases we are seeing presently are coming from the rural communities.

“The report of the NCTNP of last year showed that 40 percent of the cases are coming from the rural communities and that's why the national program and partner has intensify efforts to ensure that we push TB case finding within communities. For us to make meaningful effort, awareness creation and push must be sustained at the lowest level of the target population which is the community”, Dr Odume added.

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