Health experts in Nigeria have urged the federal government to improve its domestic funding for Tuberculosis (TB) in order to reduce its burden in the country.

The call was made on Monday in Abuja at an advocacy workshop on Drug-Resistance TB (DR-TB) organised by the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), in collaboration with the Stop TB Partnership Nigeria and the Treatment Action Group (TAG) New York.

Speaking at the event, the National Coordinator, NTBLCP, Chukwuma Anyaike, said the funding gap of TB in the country currently stands at 70 per cent.

Mr Anyaike said the country can only boast of 30 per cent funding out of which 23 per cent is from international donors and other partners.

He said; “We need support, especially financial support to be able to breach this gap and eradicate the disease.”

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is a contagious disease that is caused by a bacterium (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that often affects the lungs.

Nigeria remains one of the 30 countries globally with the highest burden of TB. She ranks first in Africa with the number of undetected cases.

Although TB is one of the vaccine-preventable diseases which is also curable, statistics from the WHO show that every year, around 245,000 Nigerians die from TB, and about 590,000 new cases occur (of these, around 140,000 are also HIV-positive).

Data released by ‘Stop TB Partnership’ in March shows that global treatment and diagnosis of TB cases witnessed a drastic decline in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has infected millions of people worldwide.

The report also indicates that disruptions in services caused by the pandemic have led to further setbacks in progress already made against the disease.

Drug resistance TB

Mr Anyaike said the country has only treated 11 per cent of people with drug resistant TB, leaving a gap of 89 per cent.

He said data show that one case of TB that is left untreated can infect 10 to 15 people in a year depending on the environmental position of such a person.

“We have 440,000 new cases of TB in this country and the highest number of cases we notified was in 2020. If compared with our estimation, you will find out we have above 300,000 cases still missing,” he said.

He explained that between 2010 and 2020, 13,407 DR-TB cases have been notified while 9,337 have been placed on treatment.

He, however, said awareness of TB is still very low as only 27 per cent of Nigerians know about the disease.

“Furthermore, worthy of note is the gap between diagnosis and enrollment of DR-TB cases which has been largely due to a myriad of factors.

“One of which is the lack of demand for the diagnostic services due to lack of awareness of Tuberculosis amongst the population, stigma, and ignorance of the people in the community about the disease,” he said.

He noted that the NTBLCP through the support and collaboration of partners and donor agencies have taken laudable steps in reducing the prevalence of the disease through ensuring Universal Health Coverage for DR-TB patients.

“Nigeria adopted the Gene Xpert technology in 2013 for rapid diagnosis of DR-TB with the capacity to diagnose a case within 100 minutes.

“Currently, 403 of these Gene Xpert machines have been procured and deployed across the country to ensure accessibility to rapid molecular diagnosis of presumptive DR-TB,” he said.

In his remarks, the executive secretary of StopTB partnership, Mayowa Joel, said there are ongoing efforts to eradicate drug-resistant TB which is still high in the country.

He said the dialogue aims to get new recommendations to improve TB case finding and treatments for drug resistance TB in the country.

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