Tuberculosis: Nigeria records highest infection rate in Africa

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By Sanni Onogu, Abuja

Nigeria ranks number one with the highest rate of tuberculosis infection within the African region, and among the top 10 countries globally, it was learnt on Wednesday.

The representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tereza Kasaeva, disclosed that during a courtesy visit to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, in Abuja by the United Nations Programming Mission.

Kasaeva said that the infectious disease is responsible for over 1.5 million deaths annually according to global statistics.

Kasaeva, therefore, called on the Federal Government to make additional investments in primary healthcare services through urgent interventions by the National Assembly.

“Additional investments in Tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases will be needed from the domestic source, and we quite clearly understand the challenges in the country, the budget will never be enough for the health sector and its always some sort of struggle.”

“But it will be also good to demonstrate to the biggest outside partners, USAID and Global Fund, if they will see intentions and prioritization from the side of the government on these important health issues to invest more.

“And we from our side as WHO will use all the additional advocacy to attracting these resources and provide all the needed technical support for the country.

“Another thing I would like to raise is how to strengthen the health system. It definitely should go through the embedding of essential services into primary health care, because it is the first access to all the population.

“As we are told, the ownership of the biggest initiative by the Senate and the President of the country will be crucial.”

“Just a few facts for your attention about tuberculosis globally. It is an old disease but still the number one infectious disease killer in the world with One million five hundred thousand deaths annually.

“Unfortunately, here in Nigeria, you are number one in the Afro-region, and among top ten countries globally.

“This year, we will provide a progress report to the United Nations Secretary General about the progress reports in these countries.

“We would like to demonstrate and provide progress towards achieving our ambitious target to end TB by 2030,” Kasaeva added.

Special Assistant (Press) to the Senate President, Ezrel Tabiowo, in a statement, said that Lawan appealed to the United Nations (UN) and the WHO to support Nigeria to eradicate the menace of tuberculosis in the country.

Lawan said that the statistics in which Nigeria is ranked number one in Africa in terms of tuberculosis infection rate is not good enough.

He said: “If we are number one in the African subregion and ranked ten in the world, it is not an enviable statistic. It is not a good commentary that we are in that kind of leading position from behind.

“So, we have to do a lot of work, and I want to take this opportunity to request and plead that you help us attend to these issues while we continue to keep the health sector and try to see how much more of investment we can make as a country.

“We will rely on you to support us technically and with additional resources that will help us reverse the statistics that we have today.

“I want to say the developing partners, even though you have done well, but we have the issue of not getting the legislature itself involved, because sometimes when we appropriate funds, we run into the trouble of finding some projects that would have been supported by our development partners.

“So, there’s need for our committees at the National Assembly to understand exactly the kind of support and resources that are given to the ministries, so that when we appropriate, we are able to avoid duplication in the area of appropriation,” Lawan said.

Lawan added that there is an urgent need for the Federal Government to prioritize its enlightenment, education and even investment in non-communicable diseases.

READ ALSO:1.6 million people die of Tuberculosis, says Fed Govt

He thanked the UN for long term support for the country and said that the National Assembly has been very supportive of increasing investments in the Health sector.

He said: “Recall that in the Eighth National Assembly, we passed a legislation to devote about one percent of our annual budget to Universal Health Coverage, and that translated into about fifty-five to sixty billion naira annually, and this is in clear view that the health sector in Nigeria receives more resources for investment, but that is not enough.

“Nigeria is a big country, and the kind of figure we have – two hundred million people – requires that we have more investment in the health sector than we have been able to do.

“But we are also constrained by the paucity of funds, we wish we could have more funds, and while we are trying to do our best, the United Nations and other bodies such as the World Health Organization should try to support our country.

“So, we hope that this support for non-communicable diseases will continue and be even expanded.”