- Covid-19 reversed gains of the last decade
- Government must scale up investment in detection, treatment and care.
- Stakeholders resolve to scale up interventions.
Tuberculosis (TB) remains a major public health problem globally and is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. An estimated 10 million people contracted TB in 2021 globally, with more than 5,000 daily deaths due to the infection and its complications. Nigeria has the highest burden in Africa and ranks sixth among 30 TB high burden countries globally. Nigeria accounts for 4.6% of the Global TB burden (WHO Global TB report 2021).
Last year November, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners, while highlighting the challenges raised by Covid-19, reaffirmed their commitment to support the Nigerian government in tuberculosis eradication. For the first time in a decade, experts said at the meeting, the transmission rate of tuberculosis increased in the year 2020. This marked a major negative twist in the gains made against the infection globally and locally.
As Nigeria marks another World TB Day, canvassing for partner support and funding to bridge the gaps in TB funding, partners are again renewing their support. The WHO country Lead in Nigeria, Dr. Alemu has promised that WHO will support the country in implementing her multisectoral approach towards ending the TB epidemic in Nigeria. The global agency is also supporting the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria to develop best practices and cultivate innovative ideas for ending the TB epidemic.
The Nigerian Government and partners, including the Global Fund, have committed to spending nine hundred million dollars to tackle the epidemic of TB, including addressing drug-resistant TB. Unfortunately, that amount may be too little, too late. Experts now say that Nigeria requires almost double this amount to meet up with obligations for scaling up screening, prevention, detection, treatment, and care. With inflation and other disruptions to the health supply chain, it is now important that this funding be made readily available to prevent further deterioration of service nationwide.
What is currently available to the public?
At this time, you can get access to vaccination for newborns, TB testing (walk-in tests available), and treatment for free through general hospitals in all the States of Nigeria. The aim is to scale up this service to every primary healthcare center in Nigeria and make this service truly ubiquitous.
Also, while these services are free, most people who test positive for TB require care that is not covered by this provision. This can range from the need for high nutrient foods to hospitalization to treatment for complications like liver disease. Most of these are paid for out-of-pocket and are unaffordable for millions of Nigerians living below the poverty line.
Individuals can protect themselves
You can take action to prevent yourself and your family from being infected through:
- Getting vaccinated. Vaccination is free, and available in primary healthcare centres. This will help reduce your chances of contracting TB from someone who has the active disease, but you must also practice other safety measures to ensure that you keep safe.
- Ensure your office, room and indoor space is well ventilated. The bacteria that causes TB can remain suspended in the air for long periods. Using a fan, keeping the windows open and ensuring cross ventilation are important to getting rid of the bacteria.
- Ensuring you get lots of sunlight into your living spaces. Sunlight kills the bacteria.
- Practice and ensure others around you practice cough hygiene. Cough into your flexed elbow (not your cupped hands), and throw away any tissue paper used to collect spit. Do not spit everywhere.
- Ensuring that you (or your family members) get tested or treated whenever you have a cough that lasts up to two weeks.