* As Global Fund supports Nigeria, others with $500m to fight TB
Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
Following the ravaging impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic on tuberculosis (TB) programs in some African countries especially in Nigeria, the first lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari has cautioned against global spike of tuberculosis incidence and deaths in 2021.
Mrs. Buhari who also doubles as the global TB Champion and Ambassador, expressed concern that efforts at ending the preventable and curable disease like TB were now complicated as a result of COVID-19.
Speaking during a roundtable conference of the Board of the “Global Stop TB Partnership, Daily Times reports that the first lady said that the pandemic drastically affected TB program and services all over the world as resources and attention meant to fight the disease was diverted to fight the pandemic.
Quoting the modeling study conducted by Stop TB Partnership on the impact of Covid-19 on TB, she said; ‘’the global TB incidence and deaths in 2021 would increase to levels last seen in between 2013 and 2016 respectively – implying a setback of at least 5 to 8 years in the fight against TB, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘’Though Covid-19 poses new threat to mankind but data shows TB is still the highest killer disease in the world even when covid-19 mortality rate was at its peak.
‘’That means we still have a moral obligation to end a disease that is both preventable and curable. All we need is more political commitment, effective partnerships and increased resources at the national, regional and global levels.
‘’We should also explore new frontiers of collaboration including leveraging on opportunities with Covid-19 programs and services. The similarities between the two diseases make this very imperative but most importantly because of the high-level political commitment and resources given to Covid-19.
‘’As the Global TB Champion and Ambassador, I am very committed to support activities at the global, regional and national level towards re-galvanizing our efforts to end TB’’.
Earlier, the minister for health Dr. Osagie Ehanire in his opening remarks said that Nigeria has the highest TB burden in the African region.
He said, it was unfortunate that significant number of the TB cases in Nigeria are still not detected and put on treatment.
To change the present narrative, the minister stressed the need to find all the missing TB cases and provide high quality patient-centered care and treatment for all TB patients including children and other key populations.
He said, ‘’we have two years more in attaining the UNHLM target set by all of us in 2018. However, a lot still needs to be done to change the present narrative for the continent to achieve the set target by 2022.
‘’We need to find all the missing TB cases and provide high quality patient-centered care and treatment for all TB patients including children and other key populations. We need to urgently scale up access to TB preventive therapy (TPT) and support innovations and researches for ending TB epidemic in our respective countries.
On its part, the Global Fund said, it will invest about $500 million over the next three years to fight Tuberculosis (TB) in Nigeria and 10 other African countries, which are classified under high burden TB countries in Africa.
The Senior Disease Coordinator at Global Fund, Dr. Eliud Wandwalo said that the Fund would be providing additional 70 million to support programmes targeted at finding missing TB cases.
Dr. Wandwalo added that Global Fund is committed to the eradication of TB around the world hence its decision to invest 12.7 billion dollars around the world in low and middle-income countries to fight TB, malaria and HIV.
Also speaking, Deputy Executive Director, Stop TB Partnership Secretariat Geneva, Suvanand Sahu explained that a number of countries were not on track to meet the United Nations High Level Meeting, UNHLM- target of 2018 and 2022.
Sahu stated that discussions at the roundtable meeting involving the 11 African countries with high burden TB, also included designing strategies to eliminate or mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on TB elimination programmes and services to TB patients.
Senior Programme Officer, Africa Union Commission, Dr. Sheila Shawa said about 11 African countries have poor national funding to support their TB programmes, stressing the need to provide such countries with funding partners, in order not to be left behind in the fight to end TB in Africa.