By Andy Chukwu
A new global report on Tuberculosis released by the World Health Organisation on Thursday has revealed that Nigeria and seven other countries are yet to make considerable progress in their efforts to reduce the incidence of the disease (TB).
The report showed that despite the global increase in the number of people receiving life-saving treatment for Tuberculosis in 2018, eight countries – India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and South Africa accounted for 66 per cent of the new cases.
It stated that so far, Nigeria has not been faring well in its effort on TB detection, diagnosis and treatment.
The WHO said many countries such as Nigeria with fragile health infrastructure and workforce shortages make it difficult to provide timely diagnosis and the right treatment for TB.
It also said the weak reporting systems pose problems.
“Health providers may treat people but fail to report cases to national authorities, leaving an incomplete picture of national epidemics and service needs. Further, up to 80 per cent of TB patients in high burden countries spend more than 20 per cent of their annual household income on treating the disease,” it said.
The report stated that in 2018, there were an estimated 10 million new TB cases worldwide, of which 5.7 million were men, 3.2 million, women and 1.1 million were children.
People living with HIV accounted for 9 per cent of the total.
The WHO, however, said more people are receiving life-saving treatment for tuberculosis in 2018 than ever before and this is largely due to improved detection and diagnosis.
The TB report showed that globally, 7 million people were diagnosed and treated for TB. This was up from 6.4 million in 2017.
It also noted that there was a reduction in the number of TB deaths as 1.5 million people died from the disease in 2018 down from 1.6 million in 2017.
The agency also said the number of new cases of TB has been steadily declining in recent years.
It, however, said the burden remains high among low-income and marginalised populations as about 10 million people developed TB in 2018.
Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, said the progress might enable the world meet with one of the milestones towards the United Nations political declaration target on TB.
“Ttoday we mark the passing of the first milestone in the effort to reach people who’ve been missing out on services to prevent and treat TB”.
“This is proof that we can reach global targets if we join forces together, as we have done through the Find.Treat.All.EndTB joint initiative of WHO, Stop TB Partnership and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria”.
Ghebreyesus said sustained progress on TB will require strong health systems and better access to services.
“That means a renewed investment in primary healthcare and a commitment to universal health coverage. One way to improve coverage is to adopt more people-centered comprehensive approaches. Better integrated HIV and TB programmes already mean that two thirds of people diagnosed with TB now know their HIV status. In addition, more people living with HIV are taking treatment,” he said.
The agency also lamented that children do not have adequate access to quality care.
WHO said child health programmes still do not always focus adequately on TB, half of the children with TB do not access quality care and only a quarter of children under the age of 5 in TB-affected households currently receive preventive treatment.
The TB battle has been chronically underfunded in the last few years.
This has impeded the fight against the disease as many countries such as Nigeria have been complaining of low funding to fight against the disease.
Many low and middle-income countries have been depending on international funding with 73 per cent coming through from Global Fund. WHO estimates the shortfall for TB prevention and care in 2019 at $3.3 billion.
However, with the successful replenishment of the Global Fund, it is expected that this will critically strengthen international financing.
Meanwhile, Tereza Kasaeva, the Director, WHO’s Global TB Programme, said there is an urgent need for funding of TB research and development, with an annual shortfall of $1.2 billion.
She said priority needs include a new vaccine or effective preventive drug treatment; rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests; and safer, simpler, shorter drug regimens to treat TB.