Nigeria’s federal government on Thursday said despite significant progress made in the fight against tuberculosis (TB) epidemic in the country, there were still over 200,000 new tuberculosis infections occurring every year with the knowledge of health officials.
The revelation came just as government said there was a 15 per cent increase in tuberculosis notification from 120,266 cases in 2019, to 138,591 in 2020.
Similarly, stakeholders in the campaign against tuberculosis scourge in Nigeria have advocated for increased local funding for tuberculosis intervention programme.
The Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire who spoke at the launch of the compendium of best practices for tuberculosis control in Nigeria in Abuja, said though significant achievements had been recorded in the control of tuberculosis epidemic, there was need to step up commitment and to invest strategically across the nation, to scale up best practices.
“Despite significant progress in the past three years in our fight to end the tuberculosis epidemic, we know that there are still over 200,000 new TB infections occurring every year among us, yet to be detected and enrolled in treatment.
“There are also significant numbers of TB deaths annually. We know that we must step up our commitment and invest strategically across the nation, to scale up best practices,” he said.
Ehanire described the event as a remarkable one in the history of Tuberculosis control in Nigeria, adding that it afforded opportunity to showcase best practices that have enable the steady and marked increase in tuberculosis notification in Nigeria over the past few years.
According to the minister, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, there was an 18 per cent drop globally in the number of tuberculosis cases diagnosed and notified, from 7.1 million in 2019, to 5.8 million in 2020.
In the same period, Ehanire also said tuberculosis deaths increased significantly as a result of reduced attention to treatment of patients.
He said Nigeria, as with many others countries, suffered the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with negative socio-economic trends and health service disruptions. Ehanire further said following the introduction of lockdown measures for pandemic control in the second quarter of 2020, tuberculosis testing reduced by about 30 per cent, resulting in 17 per cent reduction in tuberculosis case finding and notification.
The minister however said with the implementation of innovative strategic interventions put in place by the tuberculosis programme managers, including the integration of tuberculosis control into COVID-19 response measures, there was a 15 per cent increase in tuberculosis notification from 120,266 cases in 2019, to 138,591 in 2020.
He said Nigeria was one of the few countries in the world to record an increase in tuberculosis case notification during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
“Further to this, the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) again recorded a remarkable increase in 2021 annual T notification, when numbers increased by 50 per cent, from 138,591 in 2020 to 207,785 in 2021,” he said.
Ehanire said tuberculosis was curable, adding that the treatment was available free of charge in each and every one of the 774 Local Government Areas of Nigeria.
He expressed hope that the compendium would be a useful tool for all stakeholders, in the efforts to scale up tuberculosis control activities and to further maximise the yield from all our investments in tuberculosis control.
The National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme, headed Dr. Anyaike Chukwuma said Nigeria has achieved a milestone, from a situation of not being able to identify her prevalence level of tuberculosis infection to now being able to account for 45 per cent of the tuberculosis scourge.
He used the occasion to pay tribute to those Nigerians who have contributed significantly to the efforts to eradicate tuberculosis in Nigeria, especially the deceased.
Stakeholders from the Global Fund, Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (HVN) and USAID all Canvassed for improved funding from preferably local sources to ensure that the fight against tuberculosis is sustained.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja