Nigeria TB Caucus commits to raise awareness, keep TB in the political agenda

The Nigeria TB Caucus was launched on the 22nd of March 2018 in the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Secretariat is hosted by the Stop TB Partnership Nigeria and works closely with other key stakeholders to advocate for legislation and domestic resources mobilisation for TB amongst other things.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many efforts have been made by the Nigeria TB Caucus to keep TB in the political agenda and join the fight against COVID-19 with the fight against TB for more efficient results.

Soon after the pandemic reached Nigeria, the Caucus held a virtual stakeholders meeting with Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, WHO Nigeria, USAID Nigeria and KNCV Nigeria to discuss the way forward and to engage parliamentarians on leveraging the on-going COVID-19 response in the country. A few action points were proposed:

Include TB representatives in all technical and sub-committees of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19,

Follow-up on the procurement of GeneXperts machines by Members of the House of Representatives,

Advocate for dual testing through GeneXperts machines to increase TB Case Detection. TB case detection is a major challenge in Nigeria and using over 75% of GeneXperts for Covid-19 alone will drastically reduce the number of TB diagnostics,

Meet with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to discuss issues relating to TB.

In light of the similarities of the symptoms between TB and COVID-19 and the proposed use of GeneXpert machines for diagnosing coronavirus in Nigeria, the Honorable Abubakar Dahiru Sarki Chairman of the AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria control Committee of the National Assembly of Nigeria sent a letter to the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to request for a meeting and discuss the potential opportunities and challenges of the COVID-19 response on TB. In his letter, he called the attention of the PTF to the Tuberculosis Burden in Nigeria, the gap in case finding and the need for continuity of TB diagnosis through GeneXpert machines.

A few weeks later, the National Assembly Joint Health Committees met with members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19. Many issues concerning the COVID-19 response and its impact on health services, systems and other infectious diseases were discussed. During the meeting, Parliamentarians also asked the PTF to take advantage of this situation to strengthen health systems in Nigeria, by advocating for dual testing for both COVID-19 and TB and also asking to prioritise the procurement of more GeneXpert machines to accelerate case finding in the country.

Also the Federal House of Representatives of Nigeria has inaugurated a Special Committee on COVID-19 which gathers all the chairs of health related committees including the Honorable Abubakar Dahiru Sarki, member of the Global TB Caucus. The inauguration of the Committee reflects the intention of the House of Representatives to engage the executive arm of government in a partnership that serves the best interest of the Nigerian population. The Nigeria TB Caucus will be supporting this Committee especially the Chair of the ATM Committee to ensure that it is able to achieve its goals and objectives.

The Nigeria TB Caucus is already working on next steps for their work within the Presidential task force and the House of Representatives’ special COVID-19 Committee. This includes planning a joint meeting with health-related committees in the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) and other key stakeholders working against TB in Nigeria to discuss potential opportunities and challenges of COVID-19 response on TB as well as follow up on advocacy concerning dual/parallel testing for COVID-19 and TB in Nigeria.

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