The World Health Organization (WHO) has sounded a critical alarm regarding the alarming increase in Tuberculosis (TB) infections in Borno State, Nigeria. Dr. Walter Mulombo, the Head of Mission/Country Representative for WHO, expressed this deep concern during the 13th WHO End-Term Joint Operations Review (JOR) held in Yola. The review focused on the health challenges in the North-East region, particularly in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states, which have been significantly affected by the persistent Boko Haram insurgency.
The JOR session highlighted the urgency of addressing health challenges arising from the conflict, with a specific emphasis on the skyrocketing tuberculosis cases in Borno. Dr. Mulombo stressed the need for collaborative efforts, stating, “The rate of tuberculosis infection in Borno is worrisome. It means that Borno could be a ticking bomb for a tuberculosis explosion. We don’t want to allow that because of the humanitarian crisis; we need to work together because that thing itself is strictly an emergency.”
Assuring the readiness of WHO to collaborate with the Borno State Government to tackle the issue, Dr. Mulombo urged stakeholders to take swift action to accelerate assistance and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal of leaving no one behind.
Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno, represented by the Borno Commissioner for Health, Dr. Baba Malam-Gana, provided insight into the profound impact of the insurgency on the state’s health institutions. Approximately 50% of these institutions have been lost, with numerous staff members abducted or killed. This grim reality has further exacerbated the tuberculosis challenge, demanding additional resources and personnel.
Governor Zulum emphasized the state’s reliance on military support to reach inaccessible areas for critical services such as immunization. He called on the WHO to provide assistance in addressing these challenges, including the pressing issue of Gender-Based Violence.
Representing Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa, Commissioner for Health Dr. Felix Tangwame expressed gratitude for WHO’s contributions, ranging from capacity building to disease surveillance. He appealed for further assistance, particularly in ongoing training for health workers to stay abreast of new diseases and effective handling protocols.
Nigeria, ranked sixth globally for the highest number of TB cases, faced a significant health challenge in 2020. According to a WHO report, 9.9 millions developed tuberculosis, making Nigeria the African nation with the highest number of TB cases. The collaboration between WHO and the affected states becomes crucial in mitigating the impact of the conflict and addressing the growing health crisis in the region.
In light of these challenges, Dr. Mulombo reiterated WHO’s commitment to supporting the affected states, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive and coordinated response. The organization is poised to provide technical expertise, resources, and strategic guidance to combat the surge in tuberculosis cases and address the broader health crisis resulting from the conflict.
As the international community grapples with the repercussions of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East region, the WHO’s alarm serves as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for concerted efforts to safeguard the health and well-being of the affected populations. The collaborative response advocated by Dr. Mulombo underscores the importance of solidarity and immediate action to prevent a potential tuberculosis explosion in Borno and mitigate the broader health challenges faced by the region.