By Abujah Racheal
Abuja – West Africa still faces challenges in eradicating tuberculosis (TB) as evidenced by the high burden imposed by TB, multidrug resistance TB (MDR-TB), and TB/HIV infection, the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) has said.
The Director General, WAHO, Prof. Stanley Okolo, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Tuesday in Abuja that TB was a major public health challenge, especially in resource-limited settings.
Data from World Health Organisation (WHO) 2016 and 2017 Tuberculosis reports indicated that incidences of tuberculosis were high in West Africa.
This is especially so, considering the high risk factors, which propagate its spread.
The report revealed that TB/HIV co-infection was also an issue in the region as evidenced by the high burdens in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, and Guinea Bissau.
It stated that Nigeria still held the position of the country with the highest TB burden in West Africa and also accounted for about four per cent of the TB incidence globally.
Okolo said that TB served as one of the main causes of deaths related to antimicrobial resistance and the number one killer of people living with HIV, especially in Africa.
He noted that the burden of the disease was particularly larger in developing countries due to factors such as poverty, under-nutrition, and HIV, which increased its spread and complicated control.
According to him, West Africa, with its high levels of poverty, hunger, overcrowding, and infectious diseases is not left out in the tuberculosis epidemic.
Okolo said that TB continued to be of concern, especially with the emergence of multi-resistance and co-infection tuberculosis/AIDS, which was the leading cause of death among persons living with HIV.
He, however, said that the Global Fund partnership was mobilising and investing to support programmes that would be run by local experts in the region to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics.
The WAHO boss said there was increased evidence to indicate that TB prevalence in the region was on a continual projection in which the futuristic outcome was worrisome, considering the challenges the region was facing.
Okolo said the focus was on developing more effective approaches to TB care, using implementation and operational research to investigate barriers and design new solutions for individual countries and the entire sub-region.
He, however said that WAHO major intervention was to strengthen the multi-sectoral co-ordination of malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS control in the country and in the region.