Some stakeholders on Tuesday said there was need for integrated community systems strengthening for effective Tuberculosis (TB) response in Nigeria.
The stakeholders made the call at virtual Civil Society Accountability Forum 2020 TB Pre-Conference.
The meeting had its theme as: “ Integrating Community Systems Strengthening for Effective HIV, TB, Malaria and COVID-19 Response in Nigeria’’.
Dr Chijioke Osakwe of the National Community TB Taskforce said the role of communities and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) could not be overemphasised especially in finding missing TB cases and treatment.
He explained that TB is a major public health problem in many parts of the world with Nigeria as one of the 30 countries in the world with the highest burden of TB.
Also, eight countries account for two thirds of the total, with Nigeria being among.
According to him, one third of people estimated to have TB are either not reached for diagnosis and treatment by the current health systems or are not being reported.
“Also, for those patients who are identified, TB is often diagnosed and treated late.
“ In order to reach the unreached and to find TB patients early in the course of their ailment, it is advisable for a wider range of stakeholders already involved in community-based activities to be engaged.
“These include the CBOs, CSOs and NGOs who are already active in community-based development activities such as HIV infections, malaria control, primary healthcare services, and others who have not yet included TB in their activities.
“CBOs should be engaged in the local government areas to implement and find missing TB cases.
“Also, CBOS if they are better organised and present in the communities, they can actually provide direct services to communities that can be used to respond to the challenges in the community,’’ he said.
“So, various programmes need to be integrated to implement uniform activities in the communities instead of working in silos.
“CBOs/CSOs are better suited for Community Systems Strengthening (CSS ) because they are present in the community and interact with community members
“They react quickly to community needs and issues and provide direct services to communities and advocate for improved programming and policy environments.
“The CBOs/CSOs influence the development, reach, implementation and oversight of public systems and policies.’’
On some of the roles and benefits of community involvement in TB projects, Osakwe said the CBOs and CSOs in the community can play a role in collecting samples from patients and in giving drugs.
“They can also ensure adherence and help in ensuring initiation of treatment.
“Health interventions by communities are cost effective. Many of the community members have passion for the project and they know the people. They have greater acceptability,’’ he said.
He said there is need for the CBOs and CSOs to be involved in design and implementation of TB programmes.
Osakwe also urged that a certain percentage of programme budgeting be reserved to support CSOs and CBOs as this would ensure continued operation.
Dr Emperor Ubochioma, Programme Management Team, NTBLCP/Global Fund, said that CSS was based on community interventions that would critically look into issues.
He harped on integrating services with other areas and entities working on malaria, HIV and even those currently working on COVID-19.
“If we want to look at health outcomes, we must look at the approach where the communities are involved in issues of designing the programmes, delivering them and also participate in monitoring and evaluating those services and activities.
“It becomes very vital that every person in the community should be engaged. It is imperative that during our planning and strategic process, all entities and all those involved at all levels should participate to ensure that things are carried out appropriately.
“Going forward, we are looking at every entity, even religious entities, we are now imputing the processes that they will have to participate. We have to build their capacity to understand TB ,’’ he said. (NAN)