Tuberculosis (TB) experts across the world have converged in Abuja to urge all stakeholders to prioritise partnership in the effort to end the infectious disease in Nigeria.

This was a unanimous conclusion from majority of the experts who spoke at the 2nd National Tuberculosis Conference which held at the International Conference Centre between July 17 and 18, 2019, with the theme: “Building Stronger Partnerships to End TB in Nigeria”.

Speaking at the event, wife of the Nigerian President, Dr. Mrs. Aisha Buhari, said the country needs to treat TB challenge with urgency as there are still many missing cases. Mrs. Buhari, who was represented by her Chief of Staff, Dr. Hajo Sani, stressed that the conference was taking place at a very important time when the country needs to pay more attention to TB, which she said has become the number one killer disease in the world.

Dr Hajo Sani representing the First Lady, Dr Aisha Buhari.

The First Lady condemned the fact that Nigeria has the lowest TB detection rate globally, especially with the emergence of Multidrug Resistance TB (D-RTB) in the country. She maintained that such is unacceptable.

“It is based on the need to build stronger partnership and alliance to end TB that I accepted to be the global TB champion and ambassador to end TB in Nigeria. I hereby call on all stakeholders, including elective and all appointed officials, development partners, civil society, academia, media, religion, and traditional institution to work more to end TB in Nigeria.

“As a TB champion, I will use my position to call for more resources for TB from the government at all levels in order to close the huge gap for funding of TB in Nigeria. It is only through effective coordination that we can end TB in Nigeria,” the TB Champion and global ambassador said.

Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director, Stop TB Partnership Geneva.

Supporting the First Lady, the Executive Director of Stop TB Partnership in Geneva, Dr Lucica Ditiu, in her opening remarks noted that every stakeholder has something to bring to the table to fight TB. She said that without partnership TB cannot be tackled alone. She further stated that Nigeria has a lot of potential to end TB.

“Everyone has something to bring to the table. The problem in health and in TB is not that we don’t have the people, it’s just that we are not always keen to work together. Somebody says I want to lead in this, someone else wants to lead on that. It’s not if the private sectors are important, or public sectors are important. It should not be about who leads what. It should be about coming together,” she said.

Dr Rebecca Martins, Director, Center for Disease Control (CDC) Atlanta

Delivering the keynote address, Dr Rebecca Martins, Director, Center for Global Health (CDC), Atlanta, USA, who also agreed that partnership is important to the effort, emphasised that TB is curable. According to her, the important thing to do is collaborating in finding and treating missing cases of TB to avoid further transmission of the deadly disease.

Furthermore, she noted that Nigeria is ahead in fighting TB globally, adding that the same strategies employed to fight polio, if implemented, will be very effective to end TB. Her words: “Nigeria has a rich and strong experience to interrupt the wild poliovirus transmission. What have you done to do that? You have done four things which are also needed for TB.

“You have high level clinical commitment, there is a President’s task force where the Governors are brought together, you also have accountability at state and LGA levels, this morning I heard about a scorecard. This is the accountability that needs to be put in place, using data-driven strategy which you have.”

Dr Rebecca added that Nigeria has continued to reinvent its strategies in order to reach every child against polio and can use the same strategy against TB. Speaking on, she said that the same workforce and incidence management deployed against polio can be used to tackle TB.

Earlier on at the oral presentation during the scientific session, treatment of children who are unable to produce needed sputum for diagnosis, exposure of the same to radiation during chest x-ray as well as the safety of public health workers were among the numerous concerns raised by delegates.

Confirming this in his presentation of the abstract S05 that he co-authored, Dr Urhioke Ochuko, Childhood TB Focal Person, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme at the Department of Public Health, Federal Ministry of Health, said that Nigeria’s Childhood Tuberculosis Control is experiencing a slow implementation approach towards meeting up with standard benchmarks in spite of the country’s timely adoption for the Roadmap for Childhood TB Control.

Dr Ayodele Awe, First Country Chair, Stop TB Partnership Nigeria

Expressing commitment, Dr Ayodele Awe, First Country Chair, Stop TB Partnership Nigeria said that there are over 300,000 missing cases in the country. He emphasised the need for everyone to get tested, noting that any cough that extends to two weeks could be TB. “A large unreported case of TB are in the community spaces,” he added.

According to www.tbfacts.org/tb-nigeria, it is estimated that 407,000 people in Nigeria have TB each year. This is the estimated number of HIV negative people. In addition, there are an estimated 63,000 HIV positive people that get TB each year. An estimated 115,000 HIV negative people die from TB in Nigeria each year and an estimated 39,000 HIV positive people also die.

Tuberculosis, a potentially serious infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs, is a deadly but curable disease that is spread from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes. Since living human is at risk of the diseases, it is, therefore, important that everyone gets tested.

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