The United States Agency For International Development, USAID, has called on government at all levels to invest more on the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis in the country.
USAID/Nigeria Mission Director, Stephen Haykin made the call at the ‘Challenge TB’ ceremony to mark the end of the project with TB stakeholders in Abuja.
The Challenge TB project is the flagship global mechanism for implementing USAID’s TB strategy and it is operational in 22 countries including Nigeria.
The USAID funded project which began in 2015, lasted for 5 years with activities concentrated in 14 priority states.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Haykins, said between 2014 and 2018, over 500,000 Nigerians were treated for TB under the Challenge TB Project adding that the initiative has improved community awareness in some remote areas and treatment coverage has improved from 15% in 2015 to 24% today.
“When the activity began, public awareness about the disease was very low-only about 30% of Nigerians were aware of the signs and symptoms of TB. In response, Challenge TB set up a National TB contact center to provide key information about the disease to interested callers.
“In collaboration with the government of Nigeria and other TB partners, Challenge TB worked to raise awareness , reduce stigma and improve health seeking behaviors among vulnerable Nigerian” he said.
In his remark, the Country Representative KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation Nigeria, Dr. Odume Bethrand said the project would go a long way to reduce the spread of the disease.
Dr. Bethrand highlighted some of the critical gaps that must be addressed to attain a TB free Nigeria to include;
-Low TB Detection
-Improve access to diagnosis
-Explore better ways to identify all persons at risk of TB
-Improve utilization of existing Tb diagnostic services
-Improve participation of other sectors in TB care and prevention
-Under-reporting of TB cases
He said all hands must be on deck towards ending the TB epidemic in Nigeria by assisting Federal and State government to notify at least 650,000 TB patients by year 2024.
On her part, The Director, Public Health, Ministry of Health, Dr. Umoh Ene-Obong, said that the Federal Government would continue to implement and upscale the TB case yielding intervention demonstrated by the Challenge TB project.
She said ‘Nigeria has learnt great lessons from the innovative ways of the implementation of this project and we are already bringing them to scale in a sustainable way”.
She stressed that the Federal government would not relent in its effort at realizing a tuberculosis free Nigeria.
The highlights of the event featured, goodwill messages from TB partners, Testimonial from a TB Survivor and Paper Presentations from various key stakeholders.