The First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, advocates more funding from government and partners to bridge the gap for Tuberculosis, TB, control toward tackling the disease as public health challenge in Nigeria.
She made the call at the opening of a two-day National Tuberculosis Conference with the theme “Building Stronger Partnership to End TB in Nigeria” on Tuesday in Abuja.
Represented by her Chief of Staff, Dr Hajo Sani, the first lady said she accepted to be a global TB champion based on the need for stronger partnership to end TB and her passion in promoting the wellbeing of women and children.
Buhari, therefore, appealed to key stakeholders for improved synergy and collaboration toward ending the TB scourge in the country.
She said “you can always count my support; I am available to work with you to end TB.
“As TB champion, I will always call for more resources from government at all levels to bridge the funding gap.
“I promise to engage the first ladies of the 36 state governors as TB champions in their respective states.
“We have already started this in Lagos as wife of Lagos State Governor was conferred as TB Champion in the state on July 14; I hope to do this for all the first ladies in the country.”
As global TB Champion, Buhari also pledged to form stronger alliance with African first ladies to accelerate efforts to end the scourge on the continent by positioning TB in political agenda of governments.
Earlier, Prof. Lovett Lawson, the Board Chairman, Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, organisers of the conference, said the conference was to bring key stakeholders to foster access to research, technologies and innovations in TB control in Nigeria.
He added that the conference was to provide avenue for generation of new collaboration for home-grown TB research and innovations in TB programming and design of evidence-based policies for improved control.
Mr Abdullahi Mashi, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Health, said the 2018 WHO TB Report showed that Nigeria has the highest number of cases in Africa and sixth highest globally.
He noted that “418,000 Nigerians are projected to have TB annually, 41,800 Nigerian children are expected to have TB annually, with the working age group of Nigerians most affected by TB disease and death.
“Seventy-one per cent of TB patients and households in the country are affected by catastrophic cost due to TB; over 120,000 Nigerians die annually from TB.”
Mashi, represented by the Director of Public Health in the ministry, Dr Evelyn Ngige, said “TB remains one of the major public health challenges in Nigeria.”
He added that the ministry, through the National TB, Leprosy and Bruli Ulcer Control Programme, established the NationalTB and Leprosy Training Centre, Zaria, to build strong human resource for TB control, among other strategic interventions.