24 March 2019

Nigeria: World TB Day - Use Your Money to Provide Adequate Care, WHO Urges African Leaders

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged Africa governments to use domestic resources to fund core Tuberculosis (TB) control services in their countries

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said African governments need to increase their investment on TB. She said their current spending is below the levels required to end the epidemic by the end date of the Sustainable Development Goals.

She gave this advice in a press statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday to mark the World TB Day.

The World TB Day is observed March 24 each year. The day was set aside to create public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of the disease.

The theme of this year's World TB Day is "It's time to end TB."

TB remains the world's deadliest infectious killer disease. Each year, nearly 4,500 people lose their lives to TB and about 30,000 people fall ill with the disease.

Since 2000, 54 million have been treated, and TB deaths fell by one third. But 10 million people still fall ill with TB every year, with too many missing on vital care.

Ms Moeti said African leaders need to increase their investment in care and prevention of the disease. According to her, core TB control services should be funded from domestic resources, and universal health coverage introduced to ensure quality assured preventative, diagnostic, treatment and care services.

She said though the 2018 WHO global report shows that there has been a decrease in the disease burden globally, many African countries are not fast enough to reach the first milestones of the End TB Strategy in 2020.

According to the WHO 2018 global report, TB cases in the African region declined by four per cent per year, placing the region second among all WHO regions over the period between 2013 and 2017.

The report showed particularly impressive reductions (4-8 per cent per year) have occurred in Southern Africa (Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe), following a peak in the HIV epidemic and the expansion of TB and HIV prevention and care.

Unfortunately, a similar success story is yet to be reported in Nigeria as the country remains one of those with the highest burden of the disease globally.

At least 18 Nigerians die from the disease every hour.

With only 25 per cent detection rate, Nigeria is classified among countries with a high burden for TB, TB/HIV and MDR-TB and currently ranks sixth globally and first in Africa.

Nigeria contributes nine per cent to the global 3.6 million missing TB cases, coming behind only India and Indonesia with 26 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

An estimated 418,000 new TB cases occurred in Nigeria in 2018.

Ms Moeti urged political leaders and national governments to adopt policies and programmatic actions to foster a multisectoral response to end the epidemic. She also urged international partners for continued technical and financial support in the fight against TB and related conditions.

"We need to ensure universal access to the WHO recommended rapid molecular tests as first-line tests for diagnosis for all presumptive TB cases, as well as to adopt the new WHO recommended drugs and drug combinations for treating drug-resistant TB.

"... Within the broader context of a revitalized Primary Health Care system, these measures should include initiatives to look for and effectively treat all existing cases, and scaling up preventive treatment for high-risk populations, especially people living with HIV and child contacts of known TB cases," she said.

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