Stakeholders have advocated for the creation of an agency mandated to tackle the scourge of tuberculosis (TB) across the country.
The stakeholders, including parliamentarians, government officials, civil society organisations (CSOs), TB survivors, people living with HIV, medical experts, the media, the academia and other sectors, made the call at three meetings in Abuja, to draft a legislative framework that will guide and accelerate TB response in the country.
The executive secretary, Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Dr. Muyiwa Joel said the establishment of TB agency in the country was long overdue.
TB, he said, kills more than most diseases in the country, hence the need to have an agency to handle the response vigorously.
“TB is a communicable disease like HIV and malaria and TB it kills people more than any other disease.
“In fact, in Nigeria, TB kills 13 people every hour and, if you look at the structure of the government’s response supporting the end of TB in Nigeria, you will see that it is nothing compared to what HIV and malaria have.
“For example, HIV has a national control agency and a National AIDS STI Control Programme (NASCAP). Malaria equally has the National Malaria Elimination Programme and the National End Malaria Council. For TB, we only have the National TB, Leprosy and Buruli Control Programme which is a unit in the Federal Ministry of Health.
“We don’t have any structure, either an agency or a council, that can interface with the highest political office in Nigeria. This has made TB to be neglected in a lot of ways, limiting the response to end TB in Nigeria,” he explained.
He emphasized that having an agency would help the country to manage the current resources it has better. With an agency, he noted, there would be better coordination at the federal and state levels.
“I believe [that] with the increased political awareness about TB and, of course, political support, we believe that the government through the domestic resources can allocate money to TB both at the federal and state levels.
“The private sector will also be more open to giving more money to end TB in Nigeria. Of course, philanthropists and even donors will be more ready to give money, knowing that there is an independent body like an agency that can better manage the resources and report accordingly,” he said.
He, therefore, advised the Federal Government to take necessary action to ensure the TB agency comes to life.
A consultant, Dr. David Olayemi said the funding would come from other sources with little support from the government.
Olayemi called on President Muhammadu Buhari to create the TB agency once the proposed Bill is signed into law.
Science Nigeria reports that TB is an infectious disease which thrives among the poor. It spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes and someone else inhales the expelled droplets.
Findings revealed that Nigeria currently accounts for 4.6 per cent of global TB estimates and occupies the sixth position in the global ranking of TB and the first in Africa.
TB incidences in Nigeria currently stands at 219 per 100,000 population while the treatment success rate is 89 per cent as of 2021.
In 2021, 207,785 cases were notified which is a remarkable improvement from 2020, with 138,591 cases.
This means that almost additional 70,000 cases were notified in 2021 compared to 2020 while the TB mortality rate currently stands at 112,000 annually (53/100000 population).
With the current statistics, approximately 13 people die of TB every hour. This means 311 people die of TB every day in Nigeria and 112,000 annually.
This is a remarkable improvement in the previous data where 18 people were said to die hourly 432 daily and 156,000 annually.