By Hassan Zaggi
Calabar, the Cross River state capital is currently experiencing a dramatic increase in the cases of Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (DR-TB), the National Coordinator, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP), Chukwuma Anyaike, has revealed.
This is as a result of the destruction of the TB specialist treatment centre in Calabar during the End-SARS protest in October last year.
He made the disclosure at a workshop on Drug-Resistant TB (DR-TB) in Abuja, yesterday.
The workshop was put together by the NTBLCP in partnership with the Stop TB Partnership Nigeria and the Treatment Action Group (TAG) New York.
The meeting of the stakeholders, according to him, “is to ensure we put in our best, not on drug resistant TB cases alone, but on all TB cases to make sure that we get them and then we treat them and they are cured.”
Dr. Anyaike, however, reiterated that treatment and diagnosis of TB is free and that there is no cost attached to it.
He lamented that: “Yes, the specialist treatment center in Calabar was vandalized during the End-SARS protest and a huge was investment made in that project.
“So, at the moment, if you look into our data, you will see that the number of drug resistant cases in Calabar will be increasing because they vandalised the place and they even took some of the samples that were left in the refrigerator in that place.
“We are expecting that there will be surge in drug resistant TB cases in Calabar because of the incident.
“So, if I am saying that I have 28 specialist treatment centres in the country, with the destruction of the one in Calabar, I cant be saying I have 28 again because it won’t work at optimal capacity.”
He, however, called for support from both the federal, states, local governments and even local and international partners in the fight against TB in the country.
Speaking on the challenges in tackling drug resistant TB in Nigeria, the National Coordinator said: “The funding is not good enough because we are expected to increase the number of laboratories, diagnostic centres to be able to diagnose these cases.
“The second one is to be able to retain them in care because we notice that most of the people we have gotten don’t stay on the treatment to the estimated time of treatment and so they relapse, in that process they are also transmitting in the communities.
“It is also very important to know that drug resistant TB is also curable and is not as easy as the new TB cases because you spend more money in making sure you get them treated.”
While calling for support from all and sundry, he said: “We are calling on all and sundry including the health care workers and the funders to come to our rescue to make sure that we get the adequate funding, increase the number diagnostic centres in the states, increase the number of treatment centres in the states, reduce stigmatization, reduce discrimination, ensuring that they have an environment to stay on treatment and get cured.
“We realized that most of these drugs have side effect and most of them may not have the adequate food to eat. They will need to eat for them to take these drugs.”
Testifying, a TB survivor, Tope Adams, said disclosed that she got cured of the disease after a long battle going through.
“In July 2010, I started the drugs. Those who know it know that it not a joke. The injection is very painful and you have to take it every day.
“Since I had been going in and out of dot centres, I had taken so many injections already. If I am to calculate the injections I took, they will be up over 500 and the drugs will be like 5000.
“So, going forward, I started seeing improvement. The first week, I gained three kilograms and it went on and on. When I was leaving the hospital to go home and continue with the outpatient treatment, I was weighing 62kg. People thought I travelled out of the country.”