As efforts are intensified to ensure that Nigeria becomes Tuberculosis (TB) free by 2030, the Federal Government has revealed plans to scale-up the number of GeneXpert machines in the country.
In 2016, Nigeria adopted GeneXpert as the first diagnostic tool for the disease. It currently has 399 installed throughout the 36 states, including the Federal Capital Territory.
Speaking at a press conference to mark the World Tuberculosis Day, in Abuja on Tuesday, the National Coordinator, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Program, Adebola Lawanson, said the move is to comprehensively strengthen the detection and ensure TB is completely eradicated in the country.
Every March 24, the World Tuberculosis Day is celebrated to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.
The theme this year is “It is time”. The theme is a call for accelerated action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets to end TB epidemics by 2030.
Tuberculosis is an age-long infectious disease that affects the lungs, and one of the world’s top infectious killers, killing over 1.5 million people yearly.
Ms Lawanson said there is need to scale up the level of TB awareness among Nigerians.
“There is, therefore, the need to scale up the level of awareness of TB among Nigerians, as only about 30 per cent of Nigerians are aware of TB control and preventive methods.
WHO, in line with the SDGs, set a target of 2030, “to end the TB epidemic. In order to accelerate towards this goal, there have been a lot of controlled efforts that have been put in place.
“We have just 10 years towards the end of 2030, so a lot still needs to be done. And the slogan for this year is ‘check that cough, time no dey,” she said.
Efforts made so far
In his remarks, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said the automation of the GeneXpert machine was part of government’s effort to ensure universal health coverage.
He also said Nigeria is among the few countries to commence the use of child-friendly medicines for drug-resistant DR-TB after development.
Represented by the Director, Public Health, Eno Obong, he said, “In line with the END TB strategy, the Ministry of Health with the support of partners has made some strides in the fight against TB in Nigeria.
“We have adopted new rapid diagnostic tools as well as child-friendly medicines for drug-susceptible and drug-resistant TB (DR-TB).
“It is noteworthy that Nigeria is among the few countries in the world that immediately commenced use of child-friendly medicines for DR-TB after development,” he said.
He also said engagements with the private sector in the provision of GeneXpert and other TB services has yielded positive results, with the private sector having one of the best diagnostic centres in the country.
“The private sector is also contributing about 13 per cent of the TB cases notified in the country. We are also scaling up expansion of TB services in private facilities in oil 36 states and the FCT in line with our robust public-private mix DOTS (PPM-DOTS) plan,” he said.
The country representative of KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, Bertrand Odume, urged all stakeholders to continue with the campaign of ending tuberculosis beyond the world tuberculosis day.
“We stand here to identify with national programme for tuberculosis and to reiterate our commitment not to relent in the fight against the disease.
“We hope that with collaborative efforts of the federal ministry of health departments, partners, those that are affected, and civil society organizations, we will be able to join countries like India and Indonesia in closing the enormous gap in TB burden in Nigeria,” he said.