By Lanre Oloyede
Wife of Nigeria’s President, Her Excellency, Dr. Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari has promised to engage the First Ladies in all the 36 States of the federation as Tuberculosis Champions for their respective States with the aim of shoring up support to end the scourge by 2035.
The first lady made the promise while declaring open the second edition of International TB Conference themed: “Building Stronger Partnerships to end TB in Nigeria” which held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, Nigeria.
In her special remarks at the occasion, Aisha Buhari said she had already started this move in Lagos as Her Excellency; Dr. Mrs. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu has been conferred as TB Champion for Lagos State during the Lagos TB Dinner Forum held on Sunday, 14 July in Lagos, adding that she hope to do this for all the first Ladies in the country.
The first lady decried the fact that Nigeria currently has the highest number of tuberculosis cases in Africa and the sixth highest in the world with approximately 600,000 people becoming infected with tuberculosis in Nigeria every year; and it is projected that up to 60,000 of these new infections affect children.
She therefore called on all stakeholders including elected and appointed officials, development partners, civil society, academia, media, religious and traditional institutions to work more together to end TB in Nigeria, adding that as a TB Champion, she will also use her position to call for more resources for TB from the government at all levels in order to bridge the huge gap of funding for TB control in Nigeria.
On his part, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, Abdullahi Mashi, who was represented by Dr. Evelyn Ngige, Director of Public Health at the Federal Ministry of Health, noted that TB has become a public health burden for Nigeria with additional 41,000 children infected with the deadly disease yearly.
Mashi disclosed that owing to the high burden of the disease in the country, government would, going forward, integrate TB services into maternal and child health care services for Nigerians as a way of eradicating the disease by 2030.
Chairman of Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Dr. Lovett Lawson in his opening remarks said, “The National TB Conference brings key TB stakeholders in TB control and the academia together so as to foster access to research, technologies and innovations in TB control in Nigeria.”
Lawson said, “It provides avenue for the generation of new collaborations for home grown TB research and innovations, promote best practices in TB programming and the designing of evidence based on policies for improved TB control in Nigeria, Lawson explained.”
Director, Global Stop TB Partnership, Geneva, Dr. Lucica Ditiu, lamented that despite the huge burden of the disease, people are not aware of where to get TB treatment and that there is stigmatization of patients, adding that with joint efforts, Nigeria can be TB free by 2030.
According to Dr. Rebecca Martin, a keynote speaker, the World Health Organization’s End TB Strategy has set bold and ambitious goals to reduce TB mortality by 95% by 2035 and to reduce TB incidence by 90% by 2035 compared to the 2015 levels.
He added that alongside these new targets, there is increased political interest and commitment to ending the TB epidemic as United Nations (U.N.) Member States have unanimously made a commitment to diagnose and successfully treat 40 million people with TB by the end of 2022, as well as provide 30 million people with TB preventive treatment (TPT) by 2022 to protect them from developing TB disease.