Just as Ebola deadly virus is spreading within the Sub-Sahara regions, with the rising number of deaths and causalities .The Tuberculosis disease is another scourge that threatens the existence of Nigeria’s 170 million populace.
According to Nigeria Medical Association over 190,000 Nigerians have been infected with disease and 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.
The national survey which revealed that there are nearly five times as many people with smear-positive tuberculosis in Nigeria as were previously thought. Young children are at special risk of having a severe form of TB, which can leave them blind, deaf, paralyzed or mentally disabled. A pregnant woman with TB has a high risk that her baby will be born prematurely or have a low birth weight. TB generally can be cured, provided patients have easy access to diagnosis, treatment and support services.
But Nigeria is allocating relatively little for TB, spending less than some poorer countries. It is time Nigeria confronted the TB challenge head on to protect all of its people, including its children.
“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.”
As it does so, the United States should continue its TB support for Nigeria. Unfortunately, President Obama has requested a 19 percent cut in USAID’s TB program , which has been helping Nigeria respond to the crisis.