World TB Day—March 24th—is observed around the world each year as an occasion to build public awareness and mobilize political and social commitment for further progress towards eliminating the highly contagious, curable disease.
With 9 million new cases and nearly 1.5 million deaths per year (most in developing countries), TB is one of the world’s top public health challenges. Nigeria ranks among the top five high-burden TB countries worldwide, and 11th among the 27 high multi-drug resistant (MDR-TB) burden countries.
This year, for World TB Day 2016, HFG Nigeria co-hosted an event with the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) and sponsored a television program on TB awareness.
On Sunday, March 20th, HFG Nigeria sponsored a special segment on TB on the African Independent Television (AIT)’s O&M Sunday show. The special featured Mr. Kehinde Agbaiyero, HFG Senior Technical Advisor and TB Specialist, and Dr. Emmanuel Meribole, Director Medical/DR-TB Focal Person for the NTBLCP in Abuja. Mr. Agbaiyero and Dr. Meribole spoke about the dangers of TB, the importance of diagnosis and sticking with care regimens, and the work that HFG is doing to speed up the diagnostic process. They also explained how people can access free treatment at the Directly Observed Treatment Strategy (DOTS) centers nationwide.
Each year, the NTBLCP holds a commemoration event to both raise TB awareness and recognize “champions” for their hard work to stop the spread of the disease. Along with HFG, the NTBLCP, partnered with USAID, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the World Health Organization, the Stop TB Partnership, Agbami Co-Ventures, and the Clinton Health Access Initiative to host this year’s event, “End Tuberculosis in Nigeria: Find, Treat and Cure TB” in Abuja.
Delivering the keynote address, Honorable Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, reiterated the Nigerian government’s commitment to combating the spread of TB. The government will continue to provide drugs for the management of MDR-TB and plans to increase the budget for TB in 2017. Prof. Adewole also added that the ministry will continue to build the capacity for management of MDR-TB at all levels (local, state, national), continuing to aggressively pursue the reach of services for all forms of the disease.
Remarks were also made by TB Champion and Ambassador, First Lady of Nigeria, Her Excellency Hajiya Aisha Muhammad Buhari. Represented by the wife of the Executive Governor of Cross Rivers State (Dr. Linda Ugwuye Ayade, the First Lady urged Nigerians to unite in the fight against TB. The Ministers of Education, Environment, Information and Culture, Agriculture and Rural Development, and Power, Works and Housing, were recognized as TB Advocates by Minister of Health Prof. Adewole.