By Prudence Ijah
The need to integrate community system strengthening for effective control of HIV, TB, malaria and COVID-19 response have been reiterated even as stakeholders say it is key in improving case finding of TB cases.
This is part of the deliberations at the virtual pre-conference of Civil Society Accountability Forum, organised in collaboration with Stop TB Partnership Nigeria with the theme Integrating community systems and strengthening for efective HIV, TB, malaria and COVID-19 response in Nigeria.
The Board Chair of the Stop TB Nigeria, Dr. Ayodele Awe, who revealed that at least 75 percent of undetected cases of deadly tuberculosis (TB) disease are found in the community therefore reiterated the need to strengthen community networks, partnerships, resources, coordination as well as capacity building.
In his words, he said, for us in TB, community level is the operational level for TB and the level for the integration of diseases. It is at this level that we were told in a previous survey carried out in 2012 on TB, that 75 per cent of the TB cases that we are not detecting are in the community, and we don’t know them. “We need to increase our collaborative activities to ensure that we are able to detect cases.”
Dr Awe however called for more integration amongst civil society organisations towards improved TB detection at the community level.
The Executive Director of KNCV TB Foundation Nigeria, Dr. Bethrand Odume, however called for a change of strategy in tackling and tracing tuberculosis.
According to him, case finding for TB is imperative in reducing community transmission of Tuberculosis.
Earlier, the National Professional Officer, World Health Organization and National Community TB Taskforce, Dr. Chijioke Osakweu dring his presentation, “Integrating Community Systems Strengthening for Effective HIV, TB, Malaria and COVID-19 Response in Nigeria” stressed the need to Involve Community Based Organisations/Civil Society Organisations in programme design and implementation and Monitoring & Evaluation for TB, HIV/AIDS.
Speaking on the impact of COVID-19 on HIV, TB and Malaria Control ,he noted that disease control efforts broke down while community outreaches stopped.
“Lockdown and fear of COVID-19 reduced hospital attendance by almost 50% some facilities closed down as result of infection of health workers with COVID-19.
On his part, the Programme Management Unit Team Lead for Global Fund TB Grant, National TB and Leprosy Programme, Dr Emperor Ubochioma noted that community strengthening and integration had helped to boost a steady rise in case finding of TB in the country.
“We have to ensure support for community based organisations are available. If there is no support, intervention cannot be possible. “We have to develop an enabling environment for people and policies to improve community based organisation work in TB programmes,”he added.
The Coordinator of PTF on COVID-19, Dr. Sani Aliyu who agreed that the pandemic had exposed the weakness in the country’s health system.
“However we have been able to leverage on this to improve the country’s laboratory capacity intensive care capacity and ability to manage infectious diseases.
The Executive Secretary , Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Dr Mayowa Joel observed that through increased efforts and political commitment ,the partnership was able to boost treatment services from 28% in 2018 and significant progress in the country.
In his words, he said, “Our focus and goal is for the President to be able to establish a Presidential Task Force on TB similar to that of COVID19, that will galvanize efforts to end TB in Nigeria.