The news last week regarding tuberculosis is not a cheering one for TB patients, the stakeholder in the health sector and the nation generally.
Speaking at a TB media roundtable in Abuja last week, health experts warned that there is a marked up in the level of neglect on treatment and case finding for Tuberculosis (TB), since the fight against the COVID-19 started.
They noted that although the fatality figure for COVID-19 is a little above the 1,000 marks, tuberculosis kills more people daily.
National Coordinator of the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme, Dr. Adebola Lawanson revealed that the disease is responsible for 430 deaths daily or157, 000 deaths annually in Nigeria.
Speaking during the roundtable organised by the Stop TB Partnership, in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Lawanson said little progress was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic in TB cases finding.
She said tuberculosis, like other diseases, has been worse hit during this period due to resource relocation and realignment for COVID-19.
World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative for TB, Dr. Ayodele Awe, noted that Nigeria is still missing 300,000 cases every year.
The country was only able to detect 25 per cent of the estimated tuberculosis cases.
Also speaking, the focal person for TB at the Institute for Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), Dr. Aderonke Agbaje, said, tuberculosis has taken a hit 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 labs etc., being redeployed to support the COVID-19 response.”
The diversion of human and material resources to the fight the Covid19 pandemic to the total neglect of other debilitating diseases like TB is wrong headed.
It should be well noted that months of corona induced lockdowns had already denied many patients from accessing treatments for non-COVID infectious diseases.
Therefore, to continue to take away the support programme from these patients is to make their already bad situation worse.
The tuberculosis program says it has12, 000 dot centres in the different communities in the country and it is placing them at the disposal of the COVID-19 task force.
This offer should be seized with both hands because as health experts have pointed out, collaboration between the task force and the national tuberculosis programme will increase case detection of tuberculosis, while it simultaneously tests for COVID-19.
We shall like to stress that the current situation where TB programme is majorly funded through global funds is unacceptable.
We urge the governments at all level to invest more resources into tackling tuberculosis.
Nigeria cannot continue to be dependent on external donors when it has the capacity to shoulder such responsibility.
The deadliest infectious diseases – AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis (TB), together kill 2.4 million people every year, with TB alone responsible for 1.5 million deaths.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a consortium of donors that funds treatments said the figure could double due to coronavirus.
The governments at all levels should, therefore, assess the human resources for health so that diseases like tuberculosis AIDS and malaria are not placed on the back burner as the government battles COVID-19.