The Federal Government of Nigeria on Monday, 19th November, 2020 joined other African Countries in a Virtual 33rd Stop TB Partnership High Level Roundtable Board Meeting.
The meeting was held to review progress towards reaching the United Nations High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) TB targets in the African region, to reflect on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on TB response and together develop priority actions and financial investment needed to accelerate TB response and attainment of TB target in the midst of COVID-19 era.
President Muhammadu Buhari who participated in the virtual meeting, in his goodwill message commended the efforts and tremendous work done by Stop-TB Partnership at global and national levels for re-enforcing their commitment towards ending TB world over despite numerous challenges and said “It is sad that a preventable and curable disease like TB is still one of the leading causes of death world-wide with efforts at ending it now complicated because of the pandemic. He stated that "It is now even more urgent that the global community especially the African region act in unison with dedicated efforts using the latest available technology and tools to address the TB epidemic."
President Buhari while speaking further said that Nigeria ranks amongst those countries bearing the brunt of increasing burden of TB with a growing number of missing TB cases. He assured his listening audience that the reversal of Nigeria’s difficult health indices remains a top priority of his Administration. He listed the steps taken by his administration in addressing some of the issues to include the conceptualization and implementation of the Primary Health Care Revitalization Programme aimed at empowering Primary Health Care (PHC) to provide quality basic healthcare treatment of TB, HIV, Malaria and other health challenges delivered in efficient ways. The President said this will go a long way in helping Nigeria to achieve its target of Universal Health Coverage. He also mentioned the implementation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, prescribed by the National Health Act to bridge the gap in health care financing with funds released to support provision of a basic minimum package of health service as well as improved funding of health services through Voluntary Contributory Schemes (VSC) that will reduce out of pocket spending of patients and their families including those with TB.
The Honourable Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora who was also present at the meeting, in his opening remarks said that a lot still needs to be done to change the present narrative for the continent to achieve the set target of attaining UNHLM by 2022. He said that TB still remains a major public health problem in WHO African region, with the region accounting for 25% of people who developed TB in 2019 with Nigeria having the highest TB burden in the region. “We need to find all the missing TB cases and provide high quality patient-centred 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”, the Minister stated.
Dr. Mamora also informed that sequel to the UNHLM meeting in 2018, Nigeria immediately developed a plan and roadmap for translating the UNHLM commitments into action with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) engaging key stakeholders and wives of Governors as State level TB Ambassadors. ”We are also working with the Executive Arm to set up a Presidential Initiative for ending TB in Nigeria, in addition the FMoH approval for the inclusion of TB into the package of care supported by the BHCPF in 2020. He said this will further harness domestic resources towards achieving sustainable funding for TB control.”
The Minister revealed that Nigeria had made progress toward achieving the set UNHLM targets with Nigeria for the first time in 2019 recording 13% increase in TB notification, with 77% of the UNHLM target notification achieved, 74% of the UNHLM target for PLHIV placed on TB Preventive Therapy was also achieved. The Honourable Minister Health however said that the advent of COVID-19 pandemic eroded some of the gains made in the TB control efforts with some available domestic resources in most countries channelled towards addressing the pandemic. Nigeria, he revealed, being one of the epicentres of the pandemic in Africa recorded a slight dip in TB notification at the height of the pandemic which might affect overall the TB notification in 2020.
Dr. Mamora also reported that the FMoH in order to address the impact of COVID-19 on TB, rolled out various guidelines to enhance integration of TB case finding activities into COVID-19 control measures and ensure continuity of TB and other services during the pandemic. He expressed optimism that by the end of the meeting, participants would have shared best practices and ultimately come up with useful resolutions that will help reposition more efficiently, the continents' TB control efforts towards ending TB epidemic.
Other participants at the virtual meeting were the Health Ministers and representatives from the health sector in Mozambique, Zambia, Ethiopia, Cameroon, South-Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, WHO, USAID, Stop TB Partnership amongst others.
Signed: Olujimi Oyetomi, Director, Media and Public Relations, FMOH.