Global Fund supports Nigeria with $143m to fight TB

Moses Emorinken, Abuja

The fight against deadly tuberculosis (TB) disease is about to get a major boost, as the Global Fund on Thursday announced a three-year grant of $143m to Nigeria starting from next year.

The grant will enable the procurement of drugs, empowerment of health workers at the community level to actively search for missing TB cases, and increase access to testing across the country.

The Global Fund further explained that Nigeria will be receiving the largest support from it to tackle tuberculosis, including two other diseases – malaria and HIV.

President Muhammadu Buhari in his address at the high-level roundtable meeting of Africa Ministers of Health during the 33rd virtual Board Meeting of the Stop TB partnership, while lamenting the needless loss of lives from TB which is treatable, said his administration is committed to closing the gaps in TB case detection, and improving the health indices in the country.

He said, “Nigeria ranks among those countries bearing the brunt of the increasing burden of TB, with a growing number of missing TB cases.

“The reversal of Nigeria’s difficult health indices remains a top priority of this administration, including the gap in TB case detection, fueled partly by the dearth of acceptable, accessible, affordable, and patient-centered basic health facilities.

“If we fail in the fight to reverse the current trend in TB prevalence, TB will continue to fight us and lead to avoidable loss of lives, especially among the economically productive age group and amongst our most vulnerable groups especially women.

“It is imperative that we not only commit to ending the TB epidemic as one of the milestones enshrined in the SDGs, but also to institute an accountability element to ensure that our commitment translates to the achievement of desired results.”

Announcing the grant, the Senior Disease Coordinator at the Global Fund, Dr. Eliud Wanerdwalo, who noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has jeopardised global efforts to save millions of lives and provide access to essential TB care and prevention, said: “Globally, these disruptions could result in an additional 6.3 million people developing tuberculosis and 1.4 million additional deaths resulting from TB between 2020 and 2025.

“In the next three years, we will be investing about $12.7 billion around the world, in low and middle-income countries to support countries, with HIV, Tuberculosis, and Malaria in the 11 countries. We leverage countries which we had presented today, and Nigeria will receive $143m for Tuberculosis for the next 3 years.

“This is to scale up their TB programs, and also the commitment to continue to support the programs, even in this challenging period of COVID- 19. More importantly, we are willing to continue with a commitment to fund the response in Africa.

“Nigeria is one of the countries where we have one of the biggest funding in the next funding cycle. Starting from next year, it will be the number of countries where we invest most money from the Global Fund.

“We are going to invest almost N900m in Nigeria in the next three years for the three diseases and over $100m for tuberculosis specifically. It is a huge investment and it is critical for the Global Fund.”

The Global Fund disclosed that it will invest about $500m over the next three years to fight Tuberculosis (TB) in Nigeria and 10 other African countries, which are classified under high burden TB countries in Africa.

The eleven African (11) countries that will benefit from the grant are – Nigeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

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Also speaking, Deputy Executive Director, Stop TB Partnership Secretariat Geneva, Suvanand Sahu, noted that a number of countries were not on track to meet the United Nations High-Level Meeting, UNHLM- the target of 2018 and 2022.

“Two important things – the political commitment, governments and presidents need to lead the TB responses in their countries. It is very important to make funding available for the TB responses in countries through domestic budgets and also from other sources because it is about people’s life. We must commit more funding for TB,” he said.

The Senior Programme Officer, Africa Union Commission, Dr. Sheila Shawa, explained that about 11 African countries have poor national funding to support their TB programmes, stressing the need to provide such countries with funding partners, in order not to be left behind in the fight to end TB in Africa.

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, in his opening remarks, said that Nigeria has the highest TB burden in the African region. He further stated that it was unfortunate that a significant number of TB cases in Nigeria are still not detected and placed on treatment.

“We have two years more in attaining the UNHLM target set by all of us in 2018. However, a lot still needs to be done to change the present narrative for the continent to achieve the set target by 2022.

“We need to find all the missing TB cases and provide high-quality patient-centered care and treatment for all TB patients including children and other key populations. We need to urgently scale up access to TB preventive therapy (TPT) and support innovations and researches for ending the TB epidemic in our respective countries,” Ehanire said.