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USAID warns of TB epidemic in Nigeria’s schools

by Haruna Gimba

By Zayamu Hassan

There is rising cases of the Tuberculosis among students of primary and secondary schools in Nigeria.

The Lead TB and Research Mobilisation of United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Dr. Temitayo Lagundoye Odusote, who raised the concern at a pre-media briefing to mark the 2022 World TB-Day, in Abuja called on critical stakeholders to join hands to ensure that students at both primary and secondary schools are screened of TB.

She called on governments at all levels, philanthropic organizations including the private sector to invest in an effort to end TB in Nigeria.

“We urge Nigerians to continue to be their brothers’ keepers to refer, take by the hand, our neighbours, family members with chronic cough, weight loss, prolong fever, children that are just not gaining weight, failing to thrive, to take them to TB services close you.

“There are TB services everywhere in Nigeria- in General Hospitals, health care centres, patent medicine vendors, community pharmacies. They know about TB and the services are free and widely available.

“We urge private businesses and education institutions to join in the fight against TB. Incidentally we are finding an epidemic of TB in primary and secondary schools.

“We all have a role to play even if it means screening all our students for TB including x-rays and verbal screening. We encourage screening and testing for TB. Together we can do it. Lets end TB,” Dr. Odusote said. 

While congratulating the National TB Programme for attaining over 200,000 detected cases of TB in Nigeria, she said: “We call on all Nigerians from different constituencies to invest to end TB. The role of the private sector cannot be overemphasized.

 “The reporting of TB cases from the private sector has increased to close to 40 per cent at the end of last year, but we know that there is still a lot room for improvement.

“TB in Nigeria is 70 per cent under funded therefore the theme of this year- Invest in TB to save lives’ is very apt.”

Speaking earlier, the National Coordinator, National TB and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) in Nigeria. Dr Anyaike Chukwuma, called for more effort to find missing TB cases in Nigeria.

While lamenting that the level of TB case detection in the country was unacceptable, Dr. Chukwuma said there is the need for collective efforts to ensure that each local government area in the country has diagnostic machine.

 “At the moment, our coverage is still not acceptable. We should be able to have one diagnostic platform in each local government in the country. But I can tell you that we have not reach half of the coverage. That is something we must be able to push,” he said.

While calling for more funding for the fight against TB in the country, the coordinator said: “We need funding. At the moment we have 70 per cent funding gap. We know that the government cannot do it alone, we are therefore looking at the private sector, philanthropists, anyone that can support to come forward.

“We must improve from 25 per cent. We need to let people know that there is a problem so that they can see the need to support by bringing money for the intervention.”

On his part, the Executive Director of KNCV Nigeria, Dr Bethrand Odume, regretted that the current challenge of 70 per cent funding gap for TB and 70 per cent gap in the case finding indicated that when there is more funding, more cases of TB will be detected in Nigeria.

“We can find the missing cases if we have the resources. There is about 70 per cent gap of funding for TB and 70 per cent gap in TB case finding. The more resources we have, the more we will be able to find missing cases.

“The priority has shifted to GenXpert and molecular diagnostic technology, it needs money. The Catriage needs money. And now the set target to have these instrument across the local governments in the country.

“We are at 40 per cent which means that we need the resources to ensure we improve diagnostic assets which will improve the case finding for missing TB cases.”

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