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Aisha Buhari Commends NTBLCP, Calls For More Collaboration To End Tuberculosis

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Nigeria's First Lady, Aisha Buhari.
Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari.

The wife of President Muhammadu Buhari, Mrs. Aisha Buhari, has commended the National Tuberculosis, Buruli Ulcer and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) on tuberculosis (TB) control in Nigeria and urged all stakeholders to work together to eliminate the disease in the country. 

Buhari, who was represented by Dr. Victoria Okala, gave the commendation today (June 2, 2022) in Abuja, at the launch of the NTBLCP’s Compendium of Tuberculosis Best Practices in Nigeria.  

Recall the history of tuberculosis control in Nigeria, which is showcasing best practices that have enabled the steady and marked increase in TB notification in Nigeria over the past few years.

At the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there was an 18 per cent global drop in the number of TB cases diagnosed and notified – from 7.1 million in 2019 to 5.8 million in 2020. In the same period, TB deaths increased significantly as a result of reduced attention to TB patients. 

Nigeria, as with many others countries, suffered the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with negative socioeconomic trends and health service disruptions. Following the introduction of lockdown measures for pandemic control in the second quarter of 2020, TB testing was reduced by about 30 per cent resulting in a 17 per cent reduction in TB case finding and notification.

Madam Buhari, who is also the global tuberculosis ambassador, reiterated the need for effective coordination was needed to end the TB epidemic in the country.

Minister of State for Health, Sen. Adeleke Mamora said: “We are sharing our story today and have relied on the collaboration and cooperation of partners to get to where we are today”.

Mamora stressed that, with the support of partners, the country would get to where she should be. 

“Of course, we have not claimed to have all the knowledge. We are relying on the support of the partnership, collaboration and co operation of partners of friends and well-meaning Nigerians. 

“We have not forgotten those heroes who made very significant contributions. They planted trees without bearing if they will be beneficiaries of this shade, they are no more here but we remember them and we say that their commitment will continue to inspire us.” 

He revealed that the programme has had very robust working relationships with the health committees in the National Assembly and commended their support. 

“We are quick to talk about our wounds, particularly as a country, but hardly do we talk about our successes. This is one of them. We have a director representing the permanent secretary. Leadership is important.  

“We are taking a stand to change the narrative and do something different and this is one of them. I am happy we are doing this. The narrative has been changed and we are here to celebrate.  

“In celebrating, we have done the compilation of the best practices so that we can share our knowledge. Any knowledge that is not shared is wasted. We are sharing this for the benefit of others,” he said.  

The representative of Global Fund, Dr. John Thomas, said that the organisation is proud to see the level of state engagement in the country and is happy to continue with its support in case-finding in Nigeria. 

Thomas said that the organisation would not forget the challenges of case-finding but it was good to stop and celebrate its milestone. 

The senior programme manager, TB, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), Dr. Taofeekat Ali said that the institute was instrumental to the country’s achievements on TB. 

Ali said that IHVN has expanded TB services in the private sector, which has led to increased contribution of TB notification to national TB.  

“So, we’re proud to be part of these great achievements and we are committed to continuing to strengthen the partnership and increase support in the national programmes in the TB search in Nigeria,” she said.  

The director and national coordinator, NTBLCP, Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, said that the essence of the compendium was to show the funds given for the programme were being used justly.  

Anyaike said that this was also to showcase what the programme has done and to use such advocacy tools to ask for more money for the programme. 

He said that other programmes can also be copied from the TB programme because it is something that has worked that it’s even documented. 

“This is a show of best practices of something that has worked evidently. This is not what the NTBLCP did alone, or the government can do alone, this is why we are asking for more funds so that we can keep the good work on,” he said. 

The director said that no single solution or plan would meet the needs of every TB programme creativity, perseverance, and productive partners were needed to eradicate the TB epidemic in the country. 

He acknowledged the contributions of all stakeholders to the gains made in the fight against TB in Nigeria. 

He also specially recognised the fallen heroes in the fight in the country. 

“These fallen heroes have done their part and the ball has been passed to us. We must ensure we do our best to actively find missing cases,” he urged.  

Meanwhile, a TB survivor, Ms. Joy Agerl, narrated how it took over a year plus before doctors were able to diagnose that she had a latent TB infection.

According to experts, this happens when a person has TB bacteria in their body but no symptoms of the disease. The infected person’s immune system walls off the TB organisms and the TB stays inactive throughout life in most people who are infected.  

This person would have a positive skin or blood test for TB but a normal chest X-ray or one that only shows past scarring from the disease. 

Agerl said that because she had no sign of active infection in other parts of her body. 

“My chest was hurting, I was coughing a lot and I had no appetite, so I went to the hospital where I had a sputum test. I was given medicines and I was sent home but after a week I returned to the hospital because I was not getting any better. 

“Finally, during the heat of COVID-19, doctors sent me for an X-ray and, shortly after, told me I had TB. I was shocked. I couldn’t understand how I had been infected and I told them that I didn’t drink or smoke. 

“They explained to me that TB is airborne and it can affect any one of us, anywhere and that I had to go to the nearest TB directly-observed treatment short-course (DOTs) centre to start the treatment.

“I was scared when I found out that TB treatment usually lasts six months because it felt like a very long time. But, today, I have completed my TB treatment and I have fully recovered from TB,” she narrated. 

She called on Nigerians not to hesitate to call 3340 if they feel or experience any funny signs and symptoms; coughing for three or more weeks, coughing up blood or mucus, chest pain or pain with breathing or coughing, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, fever, night sweats and chills. 

“Please, run to the health care facility near you and insist on all necessary check-up,” she advised. 

Earlier, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, while unveiling the NTBLCP’s Compendium of Tuberculosis Best Practices, disclosed that the integration of TB and COVID-19 led to a 15 per cent increment in TB case notification and made Nigeria one of the few countries in the world to record an increase in TB case notification in 2020. 

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