On World Tuberculosis Day, Nigeria said cases of the disease increased by nearly 50 percent last year. At a summit Thursday to heighten awareness of the disease, health authorities said to tackle the epidemic, they need to close a huge funding gap.
At least 200 people attended the ministerial briefing Thursday in Abuja, where health authorities said confirmed cases jumped from about 138,000 in 2020 to more than 207,000 cases last year.
Health minister Osagie Ehanire said the actual number of cases is probably higher.
"There's still a significant gap between the estimated and the notified cases," he said. "The 207,000 which I spoke of represents only 45 percent of what we estimated."
Health authorities said the increase was as a result of heightened surveillance and that Nigeria was one of the few countries in the world to sustain its TB detection program despite COVID-19 disruptions.
Authorities said there is still a huge funding shortage when it comes to tuberculosis interventions, as only 31% of funding needed for TB control in 2020 was achieved.
"This year's world TB Day theme, 'Invest to End TB, Save Lives,' is a call to action that resonates with the most critical needs of Nigeria's national TB program," said Rachel Goldstein, officer for HIV and TB control for the U.S. Agency for International Development. "We know that the program currently has a significant funding gap, and that's something we've got to work together to advocate for additional resources."
Every year, about 590,000 new cases of tuberculosis occur in Nigeria, and around 200,000 people die.
Experts said apart from low awareness, stigmatization prevents early reporting of the disease.
Joyce Agerl was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2019, but only began her treatment late last year. Now, she's helping to warn others about the dangers of the disease.
"For me, one way I'll help to give more to the society is to talk to someone about TB," she said, "and another way is to also do my own publicity on social media."
Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease that affects the lungs. Nigeria has the sixth-highest TB burden in the world, and has the most cases in Africa.