WTD: Nigeria recorded 15% increase in TB case notifications in 2020

Gloria Essien

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The World Health Organisation says despite the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Tuberculosis (TB) control program in Nigeria, the country only recorded a 15 per cent increase in TB case notifications in 2020.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Mulombo made this known at the launch of the Unified TB campaign in Abuja.

The launch was part of activities marking the 2021 World Tuberculosis Day, celebration.

“It is on record that Nigeria recorded a 15 per cent increase in TB case notifications in 2020 compared with the previous year,” Mulombo said.

Dr. Mulombo disclosed that TB was one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide and the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent (ranking above HIV/AIDS).

“Globally, there are an estimated 10 million people with TB in 2019, with Nigeria and seven other countries accounting for two thirds of the global total.

Low TB case detection remain a major challenge in the TB control efforts in Nigeria with the country only detecting 27 percent of the estimated incident TB cases.

The un-detected TB cases can further constitute pool of reservoir that fuel on-going transmission of TB in the community, as one undetected infectious TB case is able to infect between 12 – 15 people per year,” he explained.

According to the WHO representative, Nigeria at the United Nations High Level meeting (UNHLM) on TB in 2018 made a commitment to diagnose and treat over 1.1 million TB cases and place about 2.2 million clients on TB preventive Therapy (TPT) from 2018 to 2022.

He, however noted that Nigeria was far away from achieving these targets with less than two years to go.

Noting that TB control budgets in Nigeria continue to be drastically underfunded.

“About 70 percent of the TB budget in 2020 were unfunded, this is a major threat to the country efforts in achieving the set targets. Too many people are pushed into poverty when they contract TB due to lost income, transport costs and other expenses. 71 percent of the TB patients in Nigeria and their household are affected by catastrophic cost due to TB,” he explained.

The Federal Government of Nigeria through the minister of health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, disclosed that there has been a steady increase in Tuberculosis (TB) notification cases in the country in the last four years.

He said that although over 120,000 new cases of TB was detected in 2019, it constitutes only 27 percent of the estimated cases of TB in the country.

“The Government of Nigeria has stepped up TB response in line with the commitment made by President Muhammadu Buhari to END TB, at the first-ever United Nations High-level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB in September, 2018. Following that commitment, we are implementing a plan that translates the commitments into action, and we were able to achieve 73% of our UNHLM TB case finding target for 2019. Efforts have led to steady increase in our annual TB case notification in the last 4 years with the country recording the highest-ever TB case notification of 120,266 TB cases in 2019; a 13% rise from 2018. However, these over 120 thousand TB cases represents only 27% of the estimated cases,” Dr. Ehanire said.

He noted that “A key challenge to our control effort has been the slow pace of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for TB services. TB DOTS services were only available in 31 percent of health facilities. The current coverage of GeneXpert machines, the first-line test for TB diagnosis, is barely 41 percent 317 out of 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs).”

The minister maintained that the Nigerian government had stepped up its TB response in line with the commitment made by President Muhammadu Buhari to end TB, adding that his administration was very committed to working with partners to mobilise the needed resources to eradicate TB from the country.

In her goodwill message, Global TB champion and Ambassador and First Lady of Nigeria, Aisha Buhari, urged government at levels, relevant stakeholders and Nigerians to double their efforts to ensure TB was eradicated from the country.

In her remarks, USAID Acting Mission Director, Dr Katie Donohoe who reiterated commitment to support Nigeria in controlling TB, warned that if detection, diagnosis and treatment of TB was not prioritised and increased, the country may not be able to reach its set targets.

In her address, the Head of Department, Surveillance and Epidemiology Department, NCDC, Elsie Ilori, said the focus of this year’s theme and slogan was timely in view of the COVID 19 Pandemic.

Ilori said that the two disease share similar symptoms, the need to have appropriate diagnosis for both diseases to determine the actual cause of any cough was crucial.

“It is also important to note that a patient may be infected by both COVID-19 and Tuberculosis. The “clock is ticking” is a call for all stakeholders, communities, and well spirited individuals to join hands with the National TB and Leprosy Control Programme and the Federal ministry of Health in the fight against Tuberculosis.

Nigeria accounts for 11 percent of the global gaps between TB incidence and notified cases. I call on all donor agencies, government of Nigeria and other Spirited individuals to support the NTBLCP with the required funding needed to combat this deadly disease,” she called.

She noted that the NCDC which  was saddled with the mandate for Disease outbreak reporting and surveillance was glad to collaborate with the NTBLCP to find the missing cases with immediate reporting for the NTBLCP intervention.

Ilori added that hence the collaboration to improve TB surveillance as a case based disease using surveillance outbreak response and analysis system (SORMAS)

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that often affect the lungs.

It is spread from person to person through the air. When people with TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.

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

The theme of World TB Day 2021 is ‘The Clock is Ticking’ and Nigeria localised slogan ‘That cough fit be Tuberculosis not COVID, check am o.’





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