The STOP TB partnership Nigeria is a multi-stakeholder partnership dedicated to the cause of ending scourge of Tuberculosis (TB) in Nigeria has registered its frustrations with the unwillingness of TB carriers to report themselves to health care facilities for examination and treatment.
The Partnership claimed that such situation has frustrated the fight against TB in Nigeria, and also resulted in rise in number of TB carriers due to the fact that more people contract the disease during the COVID-19 lockdown, as data indicated.
Chairman, STOP TB Partnership Nigeria, Dr. Ayodele Awe, who spoke at virtual TB media roundtable, on the theme: “Impact of COVID-19 on TB: Challenges and Opportunities for Service Delivery, Policy and Financing”, admitted that Nigeria was making progress in TB challenges despite the fact that case finding is still an issue, until COVID-19 disrupted response programmes.
He said that, currently, statistics of TB case finding in Nigeria revealed that it’s still between 24 percent and 27 percent which is not encouraging.
He, therefore, urged the Federal Government to collaborate with the National Tuberculosis Programme to increase case detection, while it simultaneously tests for COVID-19.
National Coordinator of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Dr. Adebola Lawanson, in her remarks, explained that COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Nigeria worsened the issue of case findings in Nigeria, and also provided opportunities for community transmission of TB.
She claimed that tuberculosis, like other diseases, was worst hit at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the fact that resources hitherto designated for TB response in Nigeria and beyond was realigned for response against COVID-19 pandemic.
She stressed the need for world leaders to reciprocate same level of attention given to COVID-19 pandemic to other diseases, particularly in Africa with high burden of TB, Hepatitis, Malaria, HIV/AIDS and several other diseases.
Meanwhile, the Country Director of KNCV Foundation Nigeria, Dr. Bethrand Odume, in his remarks, urged the government to invest more financial and logistical resources in case finding and tackling tuberculosis.
He said: “We must not be all dependent on external donors because we have the capacity to respond to the problem. The only way to go is an integrated approach to health service delivery.”
The focal person for TB at the Institute for Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), Dr. Aderonke Agbaje, in his submission reminded stakeholders that COVID-19 is here to stay and there is need for the world to begin to shift response to other diseases to avoid mass deaths in no distant time.
She said: “Tuberculosis has really taken a hit in this regard with human resources, funds, and materials that have been relocated and realigned to attend to COVID-19 issues. We have had the GeneXpert machines, HIV laboratories, being redeployed to support the COVID-19 response.
“There is a need to assess the human resources for health, both at the federal and state levels so that diseases like tuberculosis and other health issues are not being placed on the back burner in our response to COVID-19.”