World TB day is celebrated every year by people across the world at international and local levels on the 24th March, to raise public awareness on the epidemic of tuberculosis as well as get political commitment from the government, geared towards eradicating the disease.
The theme of the 2016 World TB Day is ‘Find TB, Treat TB and Working Together to Eliminate TB.’ Nigeria has the highest number of TB cases in Africa and ranks third amongst countries with the highest burden of TB globally. Almost 600, 000 people become infected with TB in Nigeria every year and it is estimated that up to 60, 000 of these new infections occur in children. Tuberculosis is also the most common cause of death in persons living with HIV. This has become even more complicated with the emergence of drug resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), a variant of the disease caused by strains of the causative bacteria that is resistant to commonly used medications. DR-TB causes more severe disease that is more difficult to treat and requires the use of very expensive medications. Despite the significant burden of TB disease and its impact in Nigeria, TB control efforts are grossly underfunded, receiving less than 30% of the required funding from all sources.
It is based on these that the STOP TB Nigeria, an affiliate of the Global Stop TB Partnership, Geneva is dedicated to ending the scourge of TB in Nigeria and fulfils its mandate by advocating for political commitment, support and funding that such a significant challenges deserves.
The Stop TB partnership Nigeria identifies with the change agenda and commitment of the present administration which aspires to build a strong economy and improve the health of Nigerians. The Stop TB partnership also believe that the input of the wife of the president, Hajiya Aisha Muhammadu Buhari in TB control will significantly augment the efforts aimed at controlling the spread of the disease amongst adults and children and improve the engagement and support of key stakeholders from public and private sector to TB control in Nigeria, thereby guaranteeing a healthy population for economic development and ensuring TB-free future for our children. Her acceptance to champion the course of TB control has elicited very positive commendation from national and international stakeholders working on TB. These include the Executive Director of the Stop TB partnership in Geneva Dr Lucia Ditiu who said “if we want to achieve our TB targets, we really need to change the main aspects in which we tackle the disease that is: leadership, engagement, technical aspects’ and funding.”
Bringing strong voices and leadership from countries is essential. The Stop TB Nigeria is delighted that the first lady kindly agreed to join the cause given her interest and dedication to humanitarian issues which is expected to lead to a significant progress in the Nigerian TB programme and in general in the health of people of Nigeria.
Though, significant progress has been made by national tuberculosis programmes and partners globally to reduce the burden of TB. Despite continued efforts however, care detection rates have been stagnating, programmes are facing challenges in reaching high-risk populations and stigma and discrimination of people with TB continue to hamper efforts to get people timely diagnosis and effective treatment.
We cannot effectively fight TB without reaching all the people who need to hear messages about TB prevention, symptoms, and treatment and act on them. That is where working with media can have significant impact.
The media, with their influence and wide reach are powerful vehicle for getting messages to audiences you could never reach on your own. With the media’s scope, ascendancy, clout and importance, we can reach people who need treatment, educate the public to this health risk in their midst increase awareness of TB among heath workers, encourage politicians to put TB higher on their political agenda, and donors to provide the money to help agencies fighting TB achieve their goals.
Bamidele is a Board Member, Stop TB Nigeria.


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