Each Year, March 24 is set aside to commemorate the World Tuberculosis (TB) Day to raise public awareness about the devastating social, economic and health impact of tuberculosis. Despite significant progress over the last decades, TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer and require acceleration of efforts to end the TB epidemic globally and in Nigeria.
Each day, nearly 4500 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 54 million lives since the year 2000 and reduced the TB mortality rate by 42%. To accelerate the TB response in countries to reach targets – Heads of State came together and made strong commitments to end TB at the first-ever UN High Level Meeting in September 2018 in New York.
The theme of World TB Day 2019 – ‘It’s time’ will ensure all that all stakeholders including political leaders are reminded of the commitments made and the timely need for actions to Scale up access to prevention and treatment, funding, human rights and accountability to end TB in Nigeria.
At the Pre-press briefing held in Abuja on Thursday, 14th March 2019, US-CDC representative in Nigeria, Dr. Bethrand Odume released the statistics with the theme “It’s time!” and slogan “To end TB in Nigeria (keep the promise! Find TB! Treat TB)”. Odume said the estimated cost was expected to be raised by the government, communities, private sector, international donors and individuals. He lamented that most of the funding for the disease comes from foreign donors, adding that it was unacceptable and should be discouraged.
He said: “To control TB in Nigeria, the sum of N147 billion has been estimated. N35 billon of that amount which is about 24 per cent has been met. To be very sincere, over time, there has been an increase in funding within the national TB programme and government has actually come up to rise to its responsibilities but the gap of 75 per cent still remains. No fewer than 18 people are reported to die as a result of the ailment every hour, thereby ranking Nigeria the sixth globally with nine per cent rate and the first in Africa after India and Indonesia which are at 26 and 11 per cent rate respectively.”
“We are looking at how to come about filling this gap. For this approach, the government must be there. One missing gap in Nigeria is that the private sector is not really coming up and that is where the Stop TB partnership in Nigeria comes in,” he said
National Coordinator of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme of the Federal ministry of Health, Dr Adebola Lawanson who was represented by senior programme officer, NTBLCP, Mr. Emperor Ubochioma said Nigeria has the highest TB burden in Africa and ranks 6th globally. Till date, tuberculosis is estimated to kill 18 Nigerians every hour. Forty-seven Nigerians develop active TB every hour, with seven of them being children.
She said persistent cough for two or more weeks could be TB and any affected person should see a healthcare provider. Dr Lawanson said diagnosis and treatment, including tuberculosis drugs, are available free of charge in all Directly Observed Treatment (DOTS) centres nationwide and that the disease is curable.
As the country joins the rest of the world to commemorate this year’s World TB day today, it behoves on government at all levels, stakeholders, as well as the general public to accelerate efforts in tackling the disease. This is in line with the theme of this year’s commemoration of the day ‘It’s time to end TB’.
It is time to find and treat every TB case, address all concerns related to the disease and end it for good in Nigeria.