Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has called on the international community to urgently act in unison with rededicated efforts, using latest available technology and tools, to address the Tuberculosis (TB) epidemic, one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide.
He made the appeal in his goodwill message to the roundtable conference of the Board of the “Global Stop TB Partnership” while expressing concern that efforts at ending a preventable and curable disease like TB were now complicated because of COVID-19.
‘As I mentioned during the UN High-Level Meeting in 2018, it is now even more urgent that the global community, especially the African region, act in unison with rededicated efforts, using the latest available technology and tools to address the TB epidemic.
‘Nigeria still ranks amongst those countries bearing the brunt of an increasing burden of TB with a growing number of “missing” TB cases.
‘The reversal of Nigeria’s difficult health indices remains a top priority of this administration, including the gap in TB case detection, fueled partly by the dearth of acceptable, accessible, affordable and patient-centred basic health facilities,’ the President told the roundtable session of Honorable Ministers of Health, during the 33rd Board Meeting of the Global Stop TB Partnership.
According to a statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari, while apprising the meeting on efforts to reverse TB cases in the country, he said his government had conceptualized and is currently implementing the Primary Health Care (PHC) revitalization programme, to empower more PHC centres to provide quality basic healthcare in the treatment of TB, HIV, malaria and other health challenges, delivered in a patient-centred way.
He added that the Nigerian Government was also implementing the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, prescribed by the National Health Act, to bridge the gap in health care financing, with funds released to support the provision of a basic minimum package of health services.
According to him: ‘We are also improving funding of health services through voluntary contributory schemes that reduce out of pocket spending and the risk of catastrophic costs to patients and their families including those with TB.’
Warning on the consequences of the increasing epidemic, the President said:
‘If we fail in the fight to reverse the current trend in TB prevalence, TB will continue to fight us and lead to avoidable loss of lives, especially among the economically productive age group, and amongst our most vulnerable groups, especially women.
‘It is imperative that we not only commit to ending the TB epidemic as one of the milestones enshrined in the SDGs but also to institute an accountability element to ensure that our commitment translates to the achievement of desired results.’
President Buhari, who acknowledged that the work of the Stop TB Partnership all over the world has been so remarkable, despite numerous challenges, pledged his commitment to providing needed political leadership and support to end TB in Nigeria and globally.