*Ehanire: TB test available only in 317 LGAs
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed worry that the country may not be able to reach its set target of diagnosing and treating over 1.1 million TB cases by next year.
WHO’s worry came just as the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said the first-line test for TB diagnosis, is barely 41 per vent; 317 out of 774 local government areas in the country.
According to the WHO, tuberculosis is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide and the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent (ranking above HIV/AIDS).
The world health body said that there are an estimated 10 million people with TB globally in 2019, with Nigeria and seven other countries accounting for two thirds of the global total.
Speaking at the event to commemorate the 2021 World TB Day in Nigeria, the Country Represetantative of the WHO in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Molumbo said Nigeria had made a commitment to diagnose and treat over 1.1 million TB cases and place about 2.2 million clients on TB preventive Therapy (TPT) from 2018 to 2022 at the United Nations High Level meeting (UNHLM) on TB in 2018.
However, he regretted that the country is still far away from achieving these targets with less than two years to go.
Speaking on the progress made so far in the control of TB in Nigeria. It is on record that, Nigeria recorded a 15 per cent increase in TB case notifications in 2020 compared with the previous year despite the effect of the COVID19 pandemic on the TB Control Program.
He explained that low TB case detection has remained a major challenge in the TB control efforts in Nigeria with the country only detecting 27 per cent of the estimated incident TB cases.
“The undetected TB cases can further constitute pool of reservoir that fuel ongoing transmission of TB in the community, as one undetected infectious TB case is able to infect between 12 – 15 people per year,” he said.
Molumbo further said that TB control budgets in Nigeria has continued to be drastically underfunded, adding that about 70 per cent of the TB budget in 2020 were unfunded which posed a major threat to the country’s efforts in achieving the set targets.
In addition, Molumbo expressed concern that too many people are pushed into poverty when they contract TB due to lost income, transport costs and other expenses.
He added that 71per cent of the TB patients in Nigeria and their household are affected by catastrophic cost due to TB.
“The theme for this year World TB Day 2021- “The Clock is Ticking” is therefore a wake-up call for us as a nation to accelerate TB response to reach the set targets in the 2021-2025 National TB Strategic Plan and to realise the commitments made by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at the first-ever UN High Level Meeting on TB in 2018,” he said.
Molumbo stressed the need for collective action across sectors to address the challenges and accelerate progress towards ending TB in Nigeria by 2030.
He said WHO is currently working with the programme in data analysis towards formulating evidence-based policies for enhancing programme performance at the all levels.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said the key challenge to in TB control effort has been the slow pace of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for TB services.
He said TB testing services were only available in 31 per cent of health facilities, adding that the current coverage of GeneXpert machines, the first-line test for TB diagnosis is barely 41 per cent; 317 out of 774 LGAs.
“The Government of Nigeria has stepped up TB response in line with the commitment made by President Muhammadu Buhari to end TB, at the first-ever United Nations High-level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB in September, 2018.
“Following that commitment, we are implementing a plan that translates the commitments into action, and we were able to achieve 73 per cent of our UNHLM TB case finding target for 2019,” he said.
Ehanire listed federal government’s priorities for tuberculosis to include; ensuring continuity of TB services through provision of integrated TB and COVID-19 services especially for of awareness creation, contact tracing and diagnosis; scale-up demand creation for TB services through regular airing of TB jingles in radio and television stations.
Other strategies involve the introduction of new diagnostic tools, shorter TPT regimen and all oral regimen for treatment of DR-TB; massively scaling up of TB service provision including TPT, in public and private facilities as well as in communities and integrating TB services into Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Nutrition (RMNCAH+N) services and non-communicable disease control.