Only 1 In 4 Nigerians Aware Of Tuberculosis, Says Minister

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The Nigerian Minister of State for Health, Hon. Ekumankama Nkama, has lamented the low level of awareness of tuberculosis (TB) among Nigerians.

During a ministerial press briefing held in Abuja to mark the 2023 World Tuberculosis Day, the minister revealed that only one in four Nigerians has knowledge of the disease.

He quoted a global tuberculosis report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that showed Nigeria still ranked highest in childhood TB cases globally, despite offering free testing and medication.

Nkama added that the country has a great burden of TB and resistance to TB medications and went on to emphasise the need for individuals who have been coughing for more than two weeks to undergo testing.

“According to the WHO global TB report, he said, “Nigeria ranks sixth in the world and first in Africa, with 467,000 TB cases reported in 2021.

“The Federal Government is committed to ending TB in Nigeria and all interventions are yielding positive results.

“TB facilities have been expanded from 2,038 in 2014 to over 20,000. What we need is for Nigerians to ensure that individuals around them who have been coughing for more than two weeks get tested and treated.”

In addition, the WHO Country Representative (WR), Dr. Walter Mulombo, represented by Dr. Laxmikant Chavan, a WHO technical officer, recalled that at the United Nations High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) on Tuberculosis in 2018, Nigeria committed to diagnose and treat 1,109,000 TB cases and place 2,183,890 clients on TB preventive therapy (TPT) from 2018 to 2022.

“However, after the end of 2022, the country has yet to demonstrate achievements of this commitment as available reports show that the country is trailing behind in all the set targets.”

Mulombo noted that TB control budgets in Nigeria continue to be drastically underfunded, with about 69 per cent of the TB budget unfunded in 2021.

“In 2021, 69 per cent of the Tuberculosis budget was unfunded, posing a major threat to achieving targets. [Also] 71 per cent of tuberculosis patients in Nigeria face catastrophic costs, pushing many into poverty. We will support the country in developing and implementing strategies to end the epidemic and facilitate research for finding missing cases and enhancing efforts.”

In her goodwill message, the acting board chairperson of Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Dr. Queen Ogbuji revealed that only 285,561 TB cases were notified, out of an annual estimate of 479,000 TB cases in the country.

“Nigeria’s progress in tackling tuberculosis has been consistent,” she said, before conceding that “more needs to be done to close the gap. Nigeria ranks first in Africa and sixth globally, accounting for 4.6 per cent of the global tuberculosis burden.

“Children under five are at a higher risk of severe TB disease with a mortality rate, but only six per cent of annual notifications are for children with active TB disease.”

The deputy director of the Office of HIV/AIDS and TB USAID Nigeria, Ms. Omosalewa Oyelaran said since 2003, Nigeria has remained among the top 10 countries affected by TB, with one of the lowest detection rates globally.

To combat this debilitating disease, USAID collaborates with the Government of Nigeria and other national and international partners to support the National TB Programme.

“In 2022,” she disclosed, “[the] USAID helped screen over 15 million individuals for TB and provided screening, diagnosis, treatment and prevention services in 18 states through community and facility-based interventions. Through the tuberculosis accelerator model, USAID partnered with local civil society organisations to increase access to quality TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment, including multi-drug resistant TB.

“These CSOs work with national and state TB programmes to deploy and scale state-of-the-art equipment and tools to improve detection.”

Despite the additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, significant progress has been made in Nigeria in partnership with the government of Nigeria and the Global Fund, she added.

“Nigeria has realized a significant increase in TB case finding and treatment coverage over the past three years as a result. Despite the additional challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have achieved significant results through partnerships with the Nigerian government and Global Fund.”

As Nigeria continues to make progress in finding missing TB cases and providing treatment, it requires significant resources. However, out of the $373 million needed for TB control in the country in 2020, only 31 per cent was available, with 24 per cent from donors and only 7 per cent from domestic sources.

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