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Promoting Good Governance.

To end tuberculosis, Nigeria needs stronger partnerships, domestic financing, community awareness

AS NIGERIA ranks the highest with the tuberculosis burden in Africa and the sixth-highest globally, International Organisations and Stakeholders in Nigeria have called for strong partnerships to end tuberculosis in the country.

This was the prominent appeal made at the ongoing two-day National Tuberculosis Conference holding between July 17 and 18 at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

Giving the opening remarks, Lucica Ditiu who is the executive director of Stop TB Partnership in Geneva said tuberculosis is a huge problem in Nigeria. She said the tuberculosis problem is compounded as 75 per cent of people with the disease are left untreated in the country, thereby infecting others. Approximately, there are  418,000 Nigerians that come down with tuberculosis every year but only 118,000 cases are treated and diagnosed, leaving 300,000 which is 75 per cent of TB people untreated.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne disease which means, it is spread person-to-person through the air. When persons with the TB cough, sniff or spit, they propel germs to the air. If a person inhales only a few of these germs, such a person becomes infected. While anybody could be infected, the most at risk are those suffering from other conditions that impair the immune system such as HIV, and the tobacco users.

“Every single person that is not diagnosed or treated can infect between 10 to 15 other people every year,” said Ditiu. “So we realise that unless we curtail it, this we keep growing.”

Ditiu also called on the media to provide more information about tuberculosis to the general public. She said Nigeria needs to fight tuberculosis problem by working with every stakeholder, not only by the doctors and nurses.

“TB is not complicated, though not easy. Nigeria must act fast. Everyone needs to know there’s a TB problem in Nigeria and it is a big one. So, what do we do to our problems? We face them not avoiding them,” explained Ditiu.

Stephen Mule, Chairman of the African Parliament and Kenyan parliamentarian, said Nigeria should deliberately invest on tuberculosis. He said the resources for the fight against the infectious disease is usually funded by donors. Mule asked for “clear domestic financing”. It is estimated that Nigeria needs $310m, almost N112bn, to bridge the tuberculosis funding gap by 2030.

“Donor funds are drying up,” he said. Adding that Nigerians should talk to their legislators as they have a vital role to play in the budget. “We must ensure that new members of the Nigerian parliament make domestic plans to fund tuberculosis. He tasked the legislators also need to speak up about the disease in their districts and constituencies.

Gidado Mustapha, global director of challenge TB project, in his own part, said the only way to move forward in the fight against tuberculosis is by decentralising the method.

“Nigeria is supposed to address the burden from the local government areas and then to the state government,” he said. He called for community awareness of the disease. By involving the grassroots, the burden of the disease would be reduced in Nigeria, said Mustapha.

The symptoms for the disease include the chest pains, fever, night sweats, weight loss, weakness, and cough (at times with sputum and blood). If a person coughs persistently for two weeks, such a person need to be tested of tuberculosis.

The National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) earlier said in March during the world tuberculosis day that the disease kills not less than 18 Nigerians every hour.

Nigeria burden is on the increase even as it has claimed the 1st position among the countries with a high burden in Africa, as against the 2nd position recorded in 2017, according to the global TB reports. Also, Nigeria has moved from 7th position to the 6th highest in the world.

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