September 24, 2020

By Lanre Oloyede

Medical experts in the health sector have raised concern over the inability of Nigeria to effectively detect all cases of Tuberculosis infections in the country due to inadequacy of diagnostics equipment.

According to the experts, Nigeria is still missing 300,000 cases every year as the country is only able to detect 25 percent of the estimated TB cases.

They argued that adequate case finding is key to effectively tackling the scourge of TB, and as such, every local government needs to have its own diagnostic tools.

Presently, the country has only 40 percent coverage of the LGAs with GeneXpert machine.

The experts raised the alarm on Monday, during a virtual TB Media Roundtable, with the theme: “Impact of COVID-19 on TB: Challenges and Opportunities for Service Delivery, Policy and Financing.

Nigeria is said to be third behind only India and China in terms of tuberculosis cases and according to statistics every year, around 245,000 Nigerians die from tuberculosis.

The medical experts are of the view that Nigeria needs the same kind of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for effective fight against tuberculosis in the country.

According to reports, TB accounts for more than 10% of all deaths in Nigeria, statistics also reveals that every hour, nearly 30 people die from the disease, despite efforts being made to end the scourge.

Speaking at the roundtable, Chairman Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Dr Ayodele Awe noted that despite the progress made by Nigeria to address the challenges of tuberculosis, case finding has remained a big issue. He said, “COVID-19 has affected the fight against TB negatively because we have not made as much progress in finding the cases.

The medical experts are of the view that Nigeria needs the same kind of Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for effective fight against tuberculosis in the country.

Also speaking at the Roundtable, the National Coordinator of National TB and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Dr. Adebola Lawanson revealed that the lack of access to health facilities during the lockdown led to TB patients developing Drug Resistant strains of TB.

She further explained that due to loss of jobs and non-viability of businesses during the lockdown, individuals suffering from TB found it difficult to effectively keep up with the demands of treatment.

In order to ensure that this does not become a health crisis, the government has been advised to include tuberculosis in the State Health Insurance Schemes for proper management.

Other experts here are in agreement on the merits of private sector involvement in the effort to control tuberculosis in Nigeria..

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