Tuberculosis is one of the oldest diseases known, yet one of the most difficult to control. Nigeria has the second highest burden of TB in Africa and the 4th highest in the world. In order to have a good estimate of the burden of TB in Nigeria, the National TB Control Programme of the Federal Ministry of Health has just concluded a nationwide population based national TB prevalence survey(we understand that the report is with the Oga at the Top, awaiting his review :)). I recently attended a regional meeting in Ghana organised by the World Health Organisation in which countries that have recently completed, or are currently doing or planning a TB prevalence survey were invited to share their insights and experiences into the processes and outcomes of the surveys from their respective countries.
Firstly Ghana….What else is there to say about our neighbors that has not been said already? The picture below is of their new Centre for Disease Control, in which the TB control programme occupies an entire floor. One could not help but be impressed by the mix of determination and innovation our Ghanaian brothers and sisters demonstrated, using information technology platforms for the implementation of their TB prevalence survey. They demonstrated with pride how they had completely automated the data collection and sharing process, including real-time monitoring from centralised data centres.
Ghana Centre for Disease Control
The highlight of the meeting for me was, as always in meetings like this, was the meeting my colleagues from Nigeria. Firstly ; Dr Joshua Obasanya and his team from the National TB Control Programme in Nigeria. They explained how they were delivering on TB control in Nigeria, despite all the challenges of our local context. As well as the team from Nigeria, there were several Nigerian colleagues working both for the WHO and research institutes, like Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, a Clinical Epidemiologist and Paediatrican, at the Medical Research Council in the Gambia. As you would expect, when two or three Nigerians gather, there is little else on our minds but how we pull our energies together to help our country. One is sometimes disappointed by the caliber of people representing our country, but not this time. Dr Obasanya and his entire team seem determined to make a difference.
Dr Adeifa, Obasanya and the Director of the Ghanian TB Control Programme
Nigeria ranks fourth among the 22 high-burden TB countries in the world. WHO estimates that 460,000 new cases of all forms of TB occurred in the country in 2009. The emergence of Multi-Drug Resistant DR-TB also poses a threat, which if not effectively addressed may wipe the achievements of previous efforts in controlling TB.
And with the expertise this great country has around the world, we really should not be struggling to do this!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead
Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (www.epiafric.com), which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.