As Nigeria joins other countries to commemorate the 2018 World Tuberculosis Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO), has called on African countries to work towards eliminating Tuberculosis disease in the region by increasing funding to the sector.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, in his regional message on Friday in Abuja to mark the annual event, noted that despite concerted efforts, the African region is still accountable for the world’s highest levels of TB infections and deaths. According him, this is due to the culture of poor funding by African governments and poor attitude towards taking responsibility for essential TB treatment in the areas of medicines and laboratory supplies.

Moeti noted that this year’s theme, ‘Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free world’, was channeled to build momentum towards the first UN General Assembly high-level meeting on TB in September, when Heads of State and governments and key players would resolve to end TB through urgent, global actions to achieve a TB-free world.

“On 24 March every year, the global community rallies together on World TB Day to focus on how best to defeat Tuberculosis (TB), an old disease that can be prevented and treated, but continues to afflict and kill many people. “Although the African region has made good progress in controlling TB, we still have the world’s highest levels of the disease, and only half of existing TB cases are being detected by our health systems.

“We have the most patients infected with both HIV and TB, and are seeing alarming increases in the forms of TB that resist treatment with common medicines. Finally, governments are contributing only a quarter of the resources needed to provide adequate TB services, and 40% of needs remain unfunded.

“I strongly urge governments to scale up domestic funding for TB control and take responsibility for essential medicines and laboratory supplies. Furthermore, governments should push for universal coverage with proven high quality services,” he said. While pledging commitment of the WHO and African Union Commission towards ending the TB epidemic by 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and End TB Strategy, he maintained that there was need for concerted efforts by African governments, community and opinion leaders, health workers and organisations to create more awareness on issues around TB to enable improved access to its treatment at all levels.

“A TB-free world will only be achieved through leaders who champion efforts to end TB at local level. At the “First Ministerial Conference on Ending TB” in Moscow in November 2017, 75 ministers from the African Region committed to end TB. Member states of the African Union finalized a Common African Position on TB (CAP-TB) on the sidelines of that historic conference. “Leaders have tremendous influence to build strong partnerships and commitment to end the TB epidemic at every level. I therefore call on governments, parliamentarians and policy-makers to drive ambitious plans that will accelerate TB control at national level.

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