Millions around the world will on the 24th of March commemorate the 2021 World Tuberculosis Day.
Nigeria will not be left out of that celebration, being a party to the United Nations charter which designated strategies to control the infection by 2030.
However, analysts believe Nigeria must, it must focus on domestic ownership of programs to effectively control TB rather than leaving its fate in the hands of donors or merely celebrating.
Domestic ownership according to experts implies that Nigeria must channel requisite local funds to TB control and lead the way on implementation.
Dr. Temitope Odusola, the TB Team Lead at USAID explains it thus; ”the federal, state and local governments, community groups, medical bodies, professionals, church groups and the private sector must buy into strategic activities to end TB and commit funds or action to it”.
The 2019 estimation by the federal ministry of health, pegged the required funds to control Tuberculosis spread in Nigeria at 384 million US dollars.
Unfortunately, over two years after a political commitment at a UN high-level meeting to end TB, Nigeria’s contribution to efforts have remained at 7%.
The country has for years relied only on donor support of 23%, provided by USAID, leaving a whooping funding gap of 70%.
Stakeholders agree unanimously that the huge funding gap will continue to threaten Tuberculosis control and erode any gains made in the past.
NIGERIA’S TB SITUATION
Nigeria ranks 6th among 30 high TB burdened countries globally and number one in Africa.
It has an estimated record of 21,000 ‘Drug Resistant’ (DR), cases but diagnoses only 2,384 DR patients while only 83% of them enrol in treatment.
With an estimated 440,000 new infections expected annually, Nigeria detects only 120,266 infections and has a treatment cover of only 27%.
This data is only half of the challenge. In Nigeria, issues around stigma, discrimination, poor awareness, denial, obsolete data, poor program implementation, non-involvement of the private sector, missing cases in children and patient abscondment all affect efforts to control TB.
Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, the Coordinator, National Tuberculosis & Leprosy Control Program says Nigeria must think outside the box to change the narrative.
‘Detecting cases and ensuring that they are in care are the two most important strategies that must be employed” He says.
Nigeria had in that UN high-level meeting in 2018, promised to treat 1 million cases of TB but has only advanced by 32% of that target since that year, says WHO Dr. Amos Omoniyi.
He says the extension of TB services to private health facilities will help scale up intervention as over 60% of Nigerians already seek care from such places.
For a few years now, health managers have focused on revitalizing Primary Healthcare centres to ease access to health, yet the distrust for the Nigerian health system continues to be a challenge.
Dr. Berthrand Odume, the Executive Director, KNCV TB Foundation says all the efforts by the government can only work if Nigerians begin to trust the nations health system.
‘‘We deployed over 400 gene expert machines to help diagnose TB across the country but the government needs to strengthen the health system in the peripherals. We have PHC’s but are people confident to enter these facilities? If they enter will they find drugs or medical staff to help them? He asked.
As the scourge of Tuberculosis continues to silently ravage Nigeria, the consensus among experts remains that government must scale up access to prevention and treatment, ensure sufficient and sustainable funding for intervention and research.