The World Health Organisation, WHO, says the African region has achieved 26 percent reduction in TB deaths.
In a message to mark this year’s World Tuberculosis, TB, Day., WHO’s Regional Director, in Africa, Matshdiso Moeti, said the region is now on the threshold of reaching a 35 per cent of TB death reduction.
This year’s day is themed: “Yes, we can end TB.” It is emphasizing the need to ensure equitable access to prevention and care towards Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Explaining that the 26 per cent reduction occurred between 2015 and 2021, Dr. Moeti noted that seven countries namely; Eswatini, Kenya, Mozambique, South Soudan, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia have reached a 35 per cent reduction in deaths since 2015.
She, however, noted that the challenges in TB prevention and control, across the region, are significant.
“First, the delayed diagnosis and testing. There is still a notable gap between the estimated number of new infections and case notifications of TB: 40 per cent of people living with TB did not know of their diagnosis or it was not reported in 2021.
“One million people are living with TB in the region and have not been detected.
“Second, the link between TB and HIV. Approximately 20 per cent of people newly diagnosed with TB are also living with HIV infection.
“Third, the multi-drug resistant TB. In the African region, only 26 per cent of all people living with multi-drug resistance are receiving the appropriate treatment,” Dr. Moeti said.
She equally expressed delight that member states are beginning to increase the uptake of new tools and guidance recommended by WHO, resulting in early access to TB prevention and care, and better outcomes.
She added that the use of rapid diagnostic testing has increased from 34 per cent in 2020 to 43 per cent in 2021, in the African region, and this is expected to improve countries’ ability to detect and diagnose new cases of the disease.
“It is particularly important to find and diagnose cases of TB so that the patients can be treated, and their contacts offered preventive medication. Nigeria is an example of a country that managed to significantly increase national TB case finding by 50 per cent in 2021 using innovative approaches such as the expansion of the daily observed treatment protocols, use of digital technologies, Community Active Case Finding, and enlisting Public Private Mix initiatives.”
She noted that TB requires concerted action by all sectors; from communities and businesses to governments, civil society and others.
Her words; “We must work together to develop innovative approaches to reach vulnerable populations and ensure that they have access to quality TB care and management.”
Dr. Moeti revealed that the second UN high-level meeting on TB in September 2023 will provide a rare opportunity to give global visibility to the disease and mobilize high-level political commitment to end TB.
She said ending TB is feasible with the decline in TB deaths and cases, and the elimination of economic and social burdens associated with it.
The Regional Director, in Africa, however, urged leaders, governments, partners, communities, and all stakeholders to urgently foster the resilient health systems required to accelerate the TB response to enable Africa meet up the Sustainable Development Goals targets by 2030.
The World TB Day is commemorated yearly on March 24 to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of this preventable disease and call for accelerated action to end it.
In 2021, with a clear roadmap, the WHO in the African Region showed that it is possible to reach – and even surpass –the first milestone of the End TB Strategy (20% reduction by 2020), with a decline rate of 22 per cent in new infections since 2015.
WHO says through their technical support, leading advocacy, and effective partnerships, enormous progress has been made over the past decade, especially in the East and Southern African Regions. High-burden countries, like Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia have surpassed or reached the 20 per cent target of reducing new TB cases.