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Facts, Collaborative Efforts and Behavioral Change In Addressing Childhood TB In Nigeria || By Mosope Kehinde 

Tuberculosis (TB) remains a significant public health challenge globally, with Nigeria bearing a considerable burden, particularly among children.

According to the 2023 Global Tuberculosis Report, globally, an estimated 44.7 million children between the ages of 0 to 9 and 125.3 million adolescents between 10-19 years old are infected with mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Out of this data, approximately 1.3 million develop TB diseases every year.

Nigeria, which is ranked 6th among 30 high TB burden countries globally, and number one in Africa, is on the 5th position in the highest burden of childhood TB worldwide.

However, Oyo state, one of the southwest states of Nigeria is ranked 13 among states of the federation with high burden of TB in the country.

No doubt, the data from the world record for Africa and Nigeria were alarming.

Though government at all level have placed priority on reducing TB in children to the barest minimum but more needed to be done.

One of the bold steps taking by the Oyo state government and development partners such as the USAID Breakthrough Action Nigeria, was to intensify effort on TB case finding, diagnosis and treatment among children as well as capacity building of stakeholders, including nutrition officers to activate their suspicion when coming in contact with children affected by malnutrition

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Recently, malnutrition has been identified as one major factor that predisposes children to contracting tuberculosis, indicating that undernutrition increases the risk of tuberculosis.

According to a public health expert in the Oyo state ministry of health, Dr Babalola Johnson during the activities marking the 2024 National Childhood TB testing week, any child that has stunted growth as a result of malnutrition or has been infected with HIV is presumed to have tuberculosis until proven otherwise through screening.

Dr. Babalola who explained that many children die of TB because they were not diagnosed, said children with malnutrition are at risk of the disease because of their low immunity while others with swelling on the neck or back, coughing and showing symptoms of fever for two weeks or more, should be screened for tuberculosis

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Despite efforts to control the disease, TB continues to affect children disproportionately, necessitating urgent collaborative efforts and behavioral change to mitigate its impact.

Firstly, collaboration among stakeholders is indispensable in combating childhood TB in Nigeria. Healthcare professionals, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and communities must continue to unite their efforts to enhance TB prevention, diagnosis, and treatment services.

Aside from necessary collaborative efforts, fostering behavioral change is crucial in combating childhood TB in Nigeria.

While medical interventions are essential, addressing social and cultural factors that contribute to TB transmission and treatment adherence is equally vital.

Educating caregivers about TB prevention, recognizing symptoms, seeking timely healthcare and knowing that TB treatment is free, can empower them to protect their children and seek prompt treatment when necessary.

Furthermore, community engagement plays a pivotal role in promoting behavioral change and combating TB stigma. By involving community leaders, religious institutions, and local influencers, awareness campaigns can challenge misconceptions about TB.

Such common myths and misconception include: TB is “caused by witchcraft, a generational curse, hereditary or not curable”

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Leveraging traditional communication channels, such as community meetings, radio broadcasts, and theater performances, can disseminate accurate information and foster a supportive environment for TB-affected children and their families.

Moreover, addressing socioeconomic determinants of TB, such as poverty, malnutrition, and overcrowded living conditions, is paramount in reducing the disease burden among Nigerian children.

Similarly, the annual national Childhood TB testing week, aimed at creating awareness and sensitizing people on implication of tuberculosis in children is a welcome development which must be embraced and supported by all.

Above all, by uniting stakeholders, leveraging resources, and fostering a supportive environment for affected children and their families, Nigeria can make significant strides towards eliminating TB as a public health threat and ensuring the well-being of its future generations.

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