March 24 is the World Tuberculosis Day.
With over 190,000 people infected, Nigeria has the highest burden of tuberculosis in Africa and is the 10th most infected country in the world, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has said. In a statement released to mark the World Tuberculosis Day (March 24), the NMA there are over 84,263 new infections yearly and over 27,000 mortality rate.
According to the NMA, “tuberculosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is mostly transmitted from person to person via inhalation and ingestion of droplets from the throat and lungs of infected individuals with the active form of the disease.” “The disease also affects a wide range of other organs such as the lymph nodes, intestines, kidneys, reproductive organs, skin, central nervous system and the bones including the spine which are all susceptible.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said over 2 billion people in the world are infected with the Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The NMA said the disease mostly affects those between 25-34 years (36.6 per cent) with Lagos, Kano, Oyo and Benue states being the states with the highest level of infections; while Ekiti and Bayelsa States have the least cases of infections. People with HIV/AIDS are mostly vulnerable to the disease with 26 per cent of them infected with 3.1 per cent of this number infected with the Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB).
The association decries the unavailability of drugs and modern treatment facilities to treat the disease in the country. “Poor availability of microscopy (smear), culture, drug susceptibility centre and presence of only one national reference laboratory at the national tuberculosis and leprosy control programme headquarters in Kaduna,” it said.
It also decried the poor budgetary allocations and dwindling international funding to fight the spread of the disease. “Funding of TB control activities was another area of poor performance with only 71% budget implementation; only 28% came from domestic sources and 48% from the Global Fund an international funding partner of the United States Government, an observation considered as ominous.
“Confirming those fears, 2013 budget estimates show that whereas there is a marginal increase of 2% in domestic funding, the contribution from the Global Fund has depreciated to 42%, a sign for Nigeria to start looking inwards for other funding options for the fight against TB,” the doctors said. With Nigeria lagging behind in all areas of rolling back the disease, the association doubts that the country “will be able to achieve the goal of 50% reduction in the prevalence and death from TB compared with the 1990 baseline by 2015 and eliminating TB as a public health problem by 2050.”
The NMA said the realisation of the fact the tuberculosis “is an entirely preventable and easily curable disease if simple public health regulations, hygiene practices and the treatment guidelines are strictly adhered to” makes the difficulties being faced in fighting the disease more disheartening.”
The association therefore called on the government to increase its commitment in the fight against the disease by increasing budgetary allocations for health to 15 per cent. It also called on the government to “establish a National Centre for Disease Control for effective surveillance and control of diseases,” including tuberculosis. The association also said the government should embark on a massive vaccination campaign as a means to eradicate the disease.