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Fresh concerns over rising TB cases, deaths

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[file] Tuberculosis is a dangerous bacterial infection that attacks the lungs.

There are fresh concerns that every individual living in Nigeria will likely be infected with tuberculosis if swift and adequate responses are not taken.

Nigeria is currently ranked seventh among the 30 high-burdened TB countries globally and second in Africa, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), disturbing statistics that has raised fear among experts.

Further statistics by the 2017 Global TB Report ranks Nigeria among the 14 high burden countries for TB, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

According to WHO, every hour, 47 Nigerians develop active TB, seven of which are children.

More worrisome is the fact that every hour, 18 Nigerians die of TB, a disease that is preventable and curable, WHO stated.

However, experts have identified poor funding, inadequate facilities, low level of awareness and rising incidence of multi-resistant drug among others factors hindering Nigeria’s fight against tuberculosis, which is a top infectious killer disease that continues to be global threat with 11 million people developing the disease yearly.

The two-day national summit on Public–Private Mix (PPM) for tuberculosis control in Nigeria, jointly organised by the Federal Ministry of Health, WHO and Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, in collaboration with the Control Programme in Lagos State, saw healthcare professionals, heads of various companies from different sectors, as well as International and Development Partners from different organisations, dialogue and proffer solutions to challenges of financing TB programmes in Nigeria and to propose strategies to improve synergy among different stakeholders to harness and leverage on available resources to end TB in Nigeria.

Lamenting the staggering statistics of the global health issue, the WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Wondimagegnehu Alemu, said the burden of the disease in Nigeria is further fuelled by huge number of undetected TB cases, which serves as a pool of reservoir for the continuous transmission of the disease, as each undetected case has the potential of infecting 10 to 15 persons in a year.

Alemu, who was represented by the National Professional Officer for Malaria at WHO, Dr Linda Ozor, said Nigeria is among the 10 countries that accounted for 64 per cent of the global gap in missing TB cases, adding that even though the federal and state governments were working to bring TB under control, Nigeria should strengthen its efforts to address the challenges by finding the remaining 300,000 cases, which are still missed by the health sector; expand quality TB diagnostic coverage nationwide; optimisation of the existing gene Xpert diagnostic machines (390) and adding more; and increase awareness of general public about TB so that they report to health facilities of suspecting signs.

Others, he said, include increasing involvement of private sector in TB control programmes, noting that available data shows that only 14 per cent of private health institutions are collaborating with the national TB control programme, and only one in five (19 per cent) TB cases are being managed at private health clinics.

Responding to disease burden in Lagos state, the Commissioner for Health, Dr JIde Idris, who declared the summit open, said 420, 000 Nigerians die yearly due to TB, and of 400, 000 cases in the country, only one in four persons is being treated for the disease.

He lamented that three in four cases of TB are not diagnosed let alone put on treatment, which according to him, is very dangerous to the public health.

The Board Chair, Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Prof. Lovett Lawson said TB transmission, which occurs anywhere, could only be stopped when all suspected cases were tested and treated appropriately, adding that the cases, deaths and economic implications of TB were becoming a significant challenge.

He stressed that TB commonly affects the poorest and most vulnerable in the county, the majority of who are in their productive years, which once affected, become too ill to work as family incomes drop significantly.

This, Lawson said, perpetuates the vicious cycle of poverty and impacts Nigeria’s economy negatively, adding that there is still much work to be done in addressing the issue with collective responsibility from the government, development partners, communities and the corporate sector.

Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, however, reiterated the government’s commitment to ensuring that high premium was continuously placed on the health of Nigerians, while ending Tuberculosis (TB) remains on its priority list.

He disclosed that budgetary allocations for TB control would be increased in the 2019 budget, while he facilitated the donation of a GeneXpert Machine to El-Lab Limited, a health laboratory firm and private medical diagnostic and research centre.

Adewole said to achieve the government’s goal of ending TB epidemic by 2030, additional support and effort are required, adding that the country must expand its current frontiers of control of TB as the disease impacts negatively on the health, welfare of individuals and economy of the nation.

According to him, to scale up this gesture to other centres, corporate organisations must be enlisted to support the provision of diagnostic facility to other health centres.

Also speaking, Chevron Group of Companies and the other Agbami parties have reiterated their commitment towards building mutually-beneficial partnerships and supporting government efforts in the health sector.

The parties, who made the comments through the Director, Star Deepwater Petroleum Limited, Mr. Rick Kennedy, said their support was inspired by their view that quality healthcare delivery provision is a crucial social service that will help build a healthy citizenry and develop the country.

In a presentation on behalf of the Agbami parties at the summit, the Medical Director Chevron, Dr Olubukunola Fagade, represented by Public Health Physician, Chevron, Dr Chinwe Okala, explained that the group’s strategic choice of intervention in TB was designed to achieve access to services, early detection and proper management of the disease, as well as other chest and lung diseases in Nigeria.

“Our strategy is actualised through infrastructural support; medical equipment and supplies; capacity building targeting health workers; protecting health workers and advocacy on TB,” she stated.


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