The Resurgence Of Tuberculosis

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The nation's quest to eradicate tuberculosis (TB), regrettably, continues to stall. A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that Nigeria occupies number one position among countries in Africa and 6th in the world with the highest burden of the disease. The sad part of the narrative is that every five minutes, a death certificate is issued for a disease that is preventable and curable but accounts for 97, 900 deaths in Nigeria.

Concerns in this regard by WHO has to do with the increasing number of tuberculosis cases in the country. It is worried that Nigeria continues to account for 23 per cent of TB deaths in Africa, with only about 50 health facilities in the country able to offer curative and even preventive services.

We recall that the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), was established in 1989 by the Government to coordinate TB and leprosy control efforts in the country. That effort, it is disappointing to note, has not yielded much progress going by the realities on ground, even as reports from various events across the country to commemorate this year's World Tuberculosis Day, revealed quite a high number of fatalities arising from the preventable scourge.


WHO Raises Concern Over Tuberculosis Scourge

All over the country, the story of the menace of tuberculosis remains the same as no state or local government is deemed free of the scourge which is said to claim a life every second. In two years, a total of 149 persons have died of tuberculosis and 7,000 others infected with the virus in Cross River State alone. High prevalence of the disease is recorded in Calabar South, Ogoja, Boki and Yakurr local government areas of the state.

Similarly, Enugu and Borno states have both recorded 7,496 tuberculosis cases while the Kwara State Commissioner for Health, Dr Amina El-Imam, said tuberculosis claimed 1,869 lives in Kwara in 2023. The Enugu State Commissioner for Health, Prof Ikechukwu Obi, said the state recorded a total of 2,496 confirmed cases of Tuberculosis in 2022.

In 2023, the Borno State Government, according to the state's Commissioner of Health, Prof Baba Malam-Gana, identified 5,000 cases of tuberculosis and said presently, more than 10,000 suspected cases are being traced across the state. In the same vein, Kano, one of the five high TB burden states in the country, recorded 26,271 cases of tuberculosis (TB) in 2022. In the last quarter of 2022, the state recorded 9,941 new cases of TB, the highest quarterly TB infection in Nigeria's history, the national tuberculosis control programme stated.

In the opinion of this newspaper, it is sad and unfortunate that the disease is killing people more than the number that died of COVID-19 and against the 2023 UN High-Level Meeting on TB Political Declaration targets, which will put the world on course to end the ailment by 2030.

According to WHO, tuberculosis is an infectious disease usually caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. It generally affects the lungs and is called pulmonary tuberculosis. It can also affect other parts of the body and is referred to as extrapulmonary tuberculosis.

However, some of the infections remain latent with no symptoms while about 10 per cent of the latent infection progresses to active disease and can kill if left untreated.

We are aware that the country still has a huge funding gap as 17 percent of its TB budget was not funded. However, it is important that diseases that are a threat to public health such as Tuberculosis, HIV, Malaria, among others, should be scaled up for reduction, if not outright eradication.

As a newspaper, we are of the considered opinion that the time to accelerate all efforts towards ending TB is now more than ever before with increased awareness on the nature of the disease. Our main worry is that not enough is known about this killer disease that it is preventable. This, therefore, suggests the intensification of public enlightenment which must encompass the urgency of preventive measures and early detection.

It is noteworthy that this disease is caused by a bacterium and not witchcraft; this traditional belief has fueled transmission. People need to know that it is just a medical condition and not a curse or a spell.

State governments and critical stakeholders need to find the missing TB cases, by scaling up key proven strategies while sustaining advocacy efforts to improve funding not only by the government but also from the private sector.

This year's theme of World TB Day 2024, “Yes! We Can End TB- “No gree for TB, Check am o!”, conveys the urgent need to come together and ramp up the fight against TB if we must achieve commitments to end the scourge by 2030.

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