Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that attacks the lungs and destroys other organs in the body, causing coughing, weight loss, fever, night sweats and sometimes death. More than one-third of the world’s population is infected with bacteria that could cause tuberculosis, and between 5 and 10 percent of the people infected will become sick. Two million people die from tuberculosis every year.
Poverty and tuberculosis are connected, as many impoverished people live in unhygienic communities with little access to healthcare. Young children and people living with HIV are also at serious risk since tuberculosis is harder to diagnose in both groups. There are many people in danger from tuberculosis, particularly those living in developing countries where poverty and diseases are common. This article will discuss facts, causes and solutions to the problem of tuberculosis in Nigeria.
Tuberculosis in Nigeria
Nigeria is ranked seventh out of the 30 highest burden countries for tuberculosis and second in Africa. Around 470,000 people are diagnosed with tuberculosis in Nigeria every year, leading to more than 150,000 deaths from tuberculosis in 2017 alone.
One of the greatest risks to the Nigerian people is the co-infection of tuberculosis and HIV. It is 16- 27 times more likely that someone with HIV will develop tuberculosis in their lifetime than someone without HIV. In fact, 63,000 HIV positive people are diagnosed with tuberculosis every year in Nigeria and 39,000 HIV positive people die from tuberculosis every year in Nigeria. Nigeria has 3.2 million people currently living with HIV, which makes its population susceptible to tuberculosis.
Another reason that Nigeria has one of the highest levels of tuberculosis is the poverty rate. There are around 152 million people in Nigeria living below the poverty line. These people suffer from poor living conditions, where diseases can often roam free, and lack of healthcare and proper food or shelter. Tuberculosis can also carry a harmful stigma, so many people living in poor communities fail to seek treatment.
Bolatito Aiyenigba, deputy project director for malaria and tuberculosis on CCP’s USAID-funded Breakthrough ACTION, helped to lead a research team to discover the reasons that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis in the world. Aiyenigba said, “Stigma, discrimination and an overall lack of awareness of TB are providing to be major barriers to going to the facility for a TB test. We now have deeper insights into the ‘why’ behind this through patients’ stories.”
Misinformed beliefs cause people to refrain from getting help. For instance, many people in Nigeria believe that tuberculosis is caused by smoking, drinking or witchcraft, or even that it is hereditary, and then try to cure it by using burnt crabs, ashes or oil. Other people don’t believe that tuberculosis testing is free in public health facilities. Groups such as the Breakthrough ACTION project are working to raise awareness about tuberculosis, first by seeking out the problem and then providing a solution.
What is happening to end tuberculosis in Nigeria? In the summer or 2018, minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewale held a symposium focused on “raising future leaders to end TB in Nigeria.” Adewale reminded everyone that the Federal Ministry of Health established the National TB and Leprosy Control Program in 1989 and that since then, Nigeria has been aligned with all World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.
WHO launched its End TB Strategy in 2014. This strategy aims to eradicate tuberculosis globally as part of the Sustainable Developmental Goals. By 2030, countries that are part of the plan will reduce tuberculosis cases by 80 percent, tuberculosis deaths by 90 percent, and completely eliminate catastrophic costs to families suffering from tuberculosis. Nigeria implemented the WHO’s End TB Strategy in 2016.
Most of all, the Nigerian government is fighting to raise awareness of tuberculosis. With more funding for tuberculosis activities, a guarantee that treatment will be available to the public, and support for people who are already on treatment, Nigeria could take huge steps forward to end tuberculosis. The wife of Nasarawa State governor, Dr. Mairo Tanko Al-Makura, said it all: “We ask for your cooperation in fighting this disease to a stop.”
– Natalie Dell