Martins Ifijeh

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that with 18 persons dying every hour from tuberculosis in Nigeria, the country now has the second highest burden of the disease in Africa, and the seven highest globally.

Stating this at the Public Private Mixed Summit for Tuberculosis Control in Nigeria held in Lagos recently, and organised by WHO in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and the Lagos State Ministry of Health, the Country Representative, WHO, Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu said not less than 420 Nigerians die on a daily cases to the highly preventable and curable disease.

Alemu, who was represented by Linda Ozor of WHO, said the high burden is fueled by large undetected and missed cases in Nigeria, adding that for every 400, 000 cases in Nigeria, only 100, 000 is detected, while the remaining 300, 000 are missed.

Ozor in her address futher said that for every three cases in Lagos, two are missed, adding that, “in most cases, the highly infectious disease is transferred from these undetected cases because those that have been detected have the potential to be successfully treated.

“Each missed case has a potential to infect 15 other persons per year. That is why we must intensify efforts to find all missed cases in Nigeria for proper management. That way, the prevalence of the disease and the high death rate from it will greatly reduce.

“While millions of Nigerians access healthcare in private hospitals, it is still surprising that only 14 per cent of private health institutions collaborate with the National Tuberculosis Programme to tackle the disease.

“If our private establishments wake up to this reality, we will have more people accessing treatment. As stakeholders, we must continue to create awareness on prevention and treatment of the preventable disease.”
On his part, the Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, Dr. Jide Idris said for the country to collectively address the burden, every state should have a strategic health plan, while the private sector should be fully involved in its control.

He said: “In Lagos, we have narrowed the plan down to strategically strengthening tuberculosis case detection, access to quality services, and the promotion of demand for cases.

“But for the disease to truly be controlled, the private sector would have to play a bigger role than what we are seeing at the moment. You know the private sector takes care of over 60 percent of our people; what that means is that once they are fully involved, progress will be rapid,” the commissioner said.

He also noted that the state was continuously working to address the issue, adding that in the health insurance billed to commence anytime soon, the state will work to include tuberculosis care in the package.

Presenting a paper on behalf of Agbami Social Investment on Tuberculosis Management, a public health physician, Dr. Chinwe Okala said Agbami has in a space of 10 years built 25 Chest Clinics in 25 states across Nigeria’s six geo political zones, to the tune of over N2.2 billion.

She said the oil conglomerate has identified tuberculosis as a major burden to Nigeria, and by extension the global community, hence their interest in addressing it across the country.

“As part of our efforts, we have developed capacity of several medical practitioners and other healthcare providers in the treatment of tuberculosis. Also, since 2015, over 50, 000 presumptive cases have been registered, and over 63,000 cases reached.”

She thanked the federal Ministry of Health and states ministries of health for their continuous partnership with Agbami in addressing tuberculosis prevalence in Nigeria.

The organisers also used the occasion to call on Nigerians who may suspect they have tuberculosis or among their family members, to call the toll free line (08002255282) for direction, counseling and treatment, adding that all general hospitals across Nigeria treats tuberculosis free of charge.