The United States Agency for International Development has urged Lagos residents including children to get involved in the ongoing efforts to end tuberculosis in the state by raising awareness about the deadly disease in their communities and schools.
The USAID stated that all age groups were at risk of TB, noting that though TB was curable, early diagnosis and treatment were key to stopping the infectious disease caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affected the lungs.
The World Health Organisation says an estimated 66 million lives were saved globally through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2020.
Speaking during an Integrated Community Health Outreach/School Health Club Launch in Ayobo in Alimosho Local Government Area of the state, the Consul General at the United States Consulate General in Lagos, Will Stevens, said it was possible to end TB if everyone got involved.
The event was organised by the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria with support from the USAID under its USAID TB-LON 3 Project to commemorate the 2023 World Tuberculosis Day themed, “Yes! We can end TB!.”
Stevens said TB was a disease that could lead to severe health issues if not treated effectively.
The US Consul General disclosed that the time had come to have African solutions to global problems and not only African solutions to African problems.
“There is an effective cure, but we can’t cure a disease if an affected individual does not get diagnosed or treated. TB remains a disease of great public health concern in Nigeria, with about 460,000 new persons contracting TB each year.
“Since 2003, the US government, through the USAID, has supported Nigeria through its TB control programme.
“It is estimated that in 2022, almost 69,000 children had TB disease in Nigeria, however, only about 30 per cent of them were diagnosed and treated,” Stevens said.
Inaugurating a school health club at Orisunmbare Senior High School, Ayobo, the US Consul General said they were concerned that Nigeria’s young people could have their hopes and dreams dampened by undiagnosed TB.
Stevens noted, “This is why we are here today – to celebrate your school and the students here for establishing a school health club to play a role in stopping TB.
“The vision for this health club is to place young people at the forefront of creating awareness, reducing stigma, and taking action to address health issues that affect you and by extension, your families.”
According to the WHO TB report, Nigeria is among the 14 high-burden countries for TB, TB/HIV, and Multi-Drug Resistant TB, and the country is ranked sixth among the 30 high-TB-burden countries globally and first in Africa.
The Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of the IHVN, Dr. Charles Mensah, in his remarks, said the USAID TB-LON 3 Project was implemented by the Institute in four states in the South-West, namely Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, and Osun.
According to him, the goal of the Project was to innovatively engage all stakeholders in finding missing TB cases by rapidly scaling up tuberculosis services, whilst strengthening resilient and sustainable systems for tuberculosis control.
Commenting on how communities and students could get involved in ending TB, Mensah said they could do so through one-on-one interaction.
“One-on-one interaction is more effective. Children are very effective in communicating one-on-one. If we catch them young and enlighten them, it will have a massive impact on awareness,” he said.
Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Primary Health Care Board, Dr. Ibrahim Mustafa, appealed to residents who had been yearning for two weeks or more to go for a TB test, affirming that the test and treatment for TB were free.
The outreach witnessed a massive turnout of residents who were offered free TB, HIV, COVID-19, and blood pressure screening.
Some of the residents and students who spoke with our correspondent expressed delight over the awareness and promised to join in the ongoing efforts to find missing TB cases in the state.
Every March 24, World Tuberculosis Day is commemorated to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global epidemic.
Common symptoms of active lung TB are cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats.