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Nigeria: Health minister quotes outdated WHO statistics on tuberculosis

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Osagie-Ehanire

A claim made by the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, on tuberculosis infection in Nigeria has been faulted by a nongovernmental organisation that holds public figures accountable.

The NGO, Africa Check, in a release on Wednesday, quoted the minister as saying sometime in March that “Nigeria ranks fourth among the 30 highest TB burden countries in the world and first in Africa.”

Ehanire, at the commissioning of some projects at the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Training Centre, Zaria, Kaduna State in March, had reportedly remarked that there were an estimated 10.4 million cases of TB worldwide, with Nigeria allegedly among the six countries accounting for 60 per cent of new cases globally.

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The minister was quoted to have said: “TB is today still a serious public health problem in many parts of the world, causing the death of nearly one-and-half million people each year, most of them in developing countries.

“The 2017 World Health Organisation global TB Report tells us that there are an estimated 10.4 million new TB cases worldwide, of which 5.9 million (56 per cent) are men and 3.5 million (34 per cent) are women with one million (10 per cent) being children.

“Nigeria is among the six countries accounting for 60 per cent of new cases globally. Nigeria also ranks fourth among the 30 highest TB burden countries in the world and first in Africa.

However, Africa Check said that the statistics quoted by Ehanire was no longer valid, as newer estimates have since been released about tuberculosis burden in Nigeria.

The NGO wrote, “Newer estimates place Nigeria second in Africa, and seventh worldwide for its TB burden,” suggesting a slight improvement in the fight against the contagious disease.

According to Africa Check, South Africa currently ranks first as the country with the highest tuberculosis burden in Africa.

It added that “much of Nigeria’s drop in new and relapse TB cases is due to revised estimates.”

Africa Check said that the minister’s aide, Itohan Ehanire, said that “he had mistakenly quoted the WHO’s 2016 tuberculosis report,” hence the mix-up in the figures.

“In the 2016 report, Nigeria was listed as one of 30 ‘high burden’ TB countries,” Africa Check noted.
Explaining the technicality involved in how the global health body generates its statistics, Africa Check wrote, “The WHO compiles its list from the number of new and relapse cases in a country in one year — known as the ‘incidence’ of TB.

“In countries with strong health systems, the number of cases reported to authorities are used to count incidence. In those with weaker systems, the WHO tries to work out how many cases of TB are not reported.”

Africa Check added that the WHO’s 2017 report used the 2016 statistics, which is the latest global tuberculosis data available.

In the said report, Nigeria drops to seventh place for the estimated number of new and relapse TB cases, at 407,000 and now ranks lower than South Africa’s 438,000 cases.

“A senior epidemiologist at the WHO’s Global TB Programme, Dr. Philippe Glaziou, explained that the drop in Nigeria’s incidence – of 32 per cent – was due to a re-estimation using new information and data.

“Specifically, there were fewer HIV-positive TB sufferers than thought before,” Glaziou was quoted to have said; with the WHO official reportedly warning that “small changes in ranking should not be over-interpreted, particularly when uncertainty ranges in the underlying estimates-overlap between countries.”

Consequently, Nigeria’s new cases in 2016 was estimated at between 266,000 and 579,000, and South Africa’s between 304,000 and 595,000 cases.

Explaining the reasons for the uncertainty that surrounded Nigeria’s TB estimates, Glaziou reportedly said: “It’s difficult to estimate Nigeria’s tuberculosis burden because there isn’t enough good data;” while a senior officer with the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme, Dr. Victor Babawale, told Africa Check that most new TB incidents are never reported in Nigeria.

“Our case notification, that is the number of cases we were able to detect in 2016, was 100,433, representing 24 percent of the estimated number of cases,” Babawale said.

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Health & Lifestyle

Cote d’Ivoire: Destroying the Killer Rice

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Authorities in Cote d’Ivoire have destroyed 18,000 tonnes of rice declared to be unfit for human consumption.

This follows tests carried out by the country’s consumer association which had demanded the government to do so after the cargo from Myanmar had been refused entry in Togo, Guinea and Ghana over quality issues.

The national and international quality control tests revealed the unfit nature of the rice.

It should be noted that most African countries depend on imports because local farmers are unable to meet the ever rising demands.

Source: Africanews

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Mali: Donkeys deliver vaccines as diseases spike with violence

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Reuters DAKAR –

With spiraling ethnic violence exposing more children in Mali to fatal diseases, health workers are using donkeys and boats to deliver life-saving vaccines, charities said on Wednesday.

In the central Mopti region – where 157 people died in one attack last month – suspected measles cases rose five-fold in one year to 98 in 2018, U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said, due to a four-fold jump in unvaccinated children to 70,000.

Motorcycles, which health workers used to reach remote villages, have been banned to reduce militant activity, forcing them to use traditional means like horses, it said.

“The problem of vaccination is directly linked to the current conflict,” said Patrick Irenge, medical coordinator for the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), which is using cars and boats as mobile clinics to reach cut off communities.

“If there is a lull in the violence, a small window that opens, we organize a vaccination campaign.”

Last month’s massacre was the deadliest to date in a conflict between Dogon hunters and Fulani herders which has displaced tens of thousands of civilians in the West African country since it escalated last year.

Pneumonia is one of the top killers of children in Mali and it can be prevented with vaccines – as can measles – but it is too dangerous for many parents to venture out with children.

“Transport is difficult because we don’t have the means to rent a vehicle or a horse cart,” said Aissata Barry, a 34-year-old mother in the village of Kankelena, about 4 km (2.5 miles) from the nearest health center in the town of Sofara.

“There are rapists on the road. That’s what we’re afraid of,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone, adding that one of her neighbors was raped two weeks ago.

Mamadou Kasse, a local health worker who vaccinated Barry’s children, said the number of children he can reach each day has fallen since he swapped his motorbike for an eight-hour ride in a donkey cart with a cooler full of vaccines.

Reporting by Nellie Peyton; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org

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