Health experts have called for the integration of Community Systems Strengthening (CSS) to effectively control HIV, TB, malaria and COVID-19 in the country.
The experts made the call on Wednesday during the Civil Society Accountability Forum 2020 virtual conference.
The conference, themed ‘Integrating Community Systems Strengthening (CSS) for effective HIV, TB, malaria and COVID-19 response in Nigeria,’ was organised in collaboration with Stop TB Partnership Nigeria.
Speaking at the event, the chairperson, Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Ayodele Awe, said that communities remain the operational level for TB control in the country.
He said about 75 per cent of undetected TB cases are in communities across the country.
“It is at this level that we were told in a previous survey carried out in 2012 on TB, that 75 per cent of the TB cases that we are not detecting are in the communities,” he said.
He reiterated the need for CSOs to strengthen existing advocacy structures in rural communities for effective intervention in diseases control.
‘‘Some CSOs work at the community level but we are still not doing well in TB detection at this level, particularly because of COVID-19 pandemic.
‘‘Integrating community system strengthening for effective control of HIV, TB, malaria and COVID-19 response is very important,” he said.
TB is one of the vaccine-preventable killer diseases, which is also curable.
Nigeria remains one of the 30 countries globally with the highest burden of the disease. Nigeria also ranks first in Africa with the highest number of undetected cases.
Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that every year, around 245,000 Nigerians die from TB, and about 590,000 new cases occur (of these, around 140,000 are also HIV-positive).
With the COVID-19 pandemic still ravaging the world, major focus have moved from other critical diseases.
A recent report by the Global Fund indicated that annual deaths toll from HIV, TB and malaria could be set back to levels not seen since the peak of the epidemic, wiping out nearly two decades of progress in the worst-hit regions.
The team lead, National TB and Leprosy Control Programme, Emperor Ubochioma, said it was time to persuade traditional rulers and opinion leaders in the communities to join the advocacy.
He said interventions are impossible without support from the community.
‘‘The community is everybody, where we live and people around us, so community entities are needed to support the process of finding, treating and managing cases.
“We have to develop strategies that will support activities of CSOs.”
The National Community TB taskforce, Chijioke Osakwe. said the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the gains already made in controlling TB.
“Lockdown and fear of COVID-19 reduced hospital attendance by almost 50 per cent.
“Some facilities closed down as a result of infection of health workers with COVID-19, while diagnostic efforts reduced significantly,” he said.
He said it is advisable for stakeholders already involved in community-based activities to be engaged in order to reach the unreached and to find TB patients early.
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