THE World Health Organisation (WHO), has removed Zimbabwe from the list of Tuberculosis (TB) high burden countries in its recent global updated list of high burden countries.
By Patricia Mashiri
The new lists are for 2021–2025 and replace those previously used between 2016 and 2020. Zimbabwe together with other high TB burden countries such as Cambodia, the Russian Federation transitioned out of the list.
Speaking to HealthTimes, Dr Charles Sandy, the Deputy Director, TB and HIV Services in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) said there was some great progress which the country had achieved so far in TB management.
We have made some progress in terms of containing and raising awareness on TB.The status does not mean we no longer have the burden but it has reduced. Its just that when comparing with other countries we have improved.
“We still have a mandate and a goal of ending TB,reducing deaths and intensify efforts in trying to curb new infections and with the coming in of COVID-19 it has been hard. COVID-19 had a major impact in accessing health services.It also brought stigma for TB patients who are at times labelled as they have COVID,” Dr Sandy said.
WHO officially communicated with the ministers of health of Cambodia, the Russian Federation and Zimbabwe, to inform them about their country’s transition out of the list of 30 high TB burden countries and to recognize their success in reducing the burden of TB disease in recent years. Between 2015 and 2019, incidence (per 100 000 population per year) fell by an estimated 22%, 25% and 18%, respectively, in the three countries.
WHO is also establishing a “global TB watchlist”. This consists of the three countries transitioning out the global list of 30 high TB burden countries, since they still warrant continued attention and will remain a priority in terms of support from WHO. In future, other countries may be considered for inclusion on this watchlist – for example, based on evidence about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on TB services and disease burden. According to WHO, it is crucial that countries on the watchlist as well as mid- to low-incidence countries continue on their pathway to the 2030 targets, and then to pre-elimination and elimination.
Dr Christopher Zishiri, The Union Zimbabwe Country Director said they are very happy that Zimbabwe has been removed for the TB high burden countries.
“We still have a long way to go. However, this is a demonstration of the working health system we have. In Zimbabwe we have access to free services which included diagnosis, free medicines and free education on TB. It is an excellent approach we have made. We have fought the battle although it is not yet over. We still need to prevent and fighting it. We are providing technical expertise, treatment and prevention ideas. We conduct community awareness campaigns so that communities will get the knowledge of what TB is, how to manage and prevent it.”
Dr Zishiri added that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the treatment of TB but they have found a way to deal with the situation.
“Now that the COVID-19 is here. It’s a big issue screening for both TB and COVID-19. Our community campaigns have been affected and now the Ministry of Health has been giving medications for longer periods and monitoring patients from home to avoid travelling. We have learnt this from the first wave,” Dr Zishiri said.
Meanwhile, Dr Donald Tobaiwa, the Directorof Jointed hands welfare Organisation said Zimbabwe through the National TB Program has been doing well with support from funding Partners ,especially USAID and Global Fund , that is why we have been removed from the high TB burden list of countries.
“Jointed Hands Welfare Organization will continue to work with Government, thanks to various funding partners to create demand , do active case finding , and provide Lab and sputum transportation support and Human resources in Districts where we are present. As a host to the Stop TB Partnership Zimbabwe, advocacy will continue on the National Platform reaching out to Private companies , Celebrities and policy makers to ensure Zimbabwe delivers on its commitment to the UNHLM declaration in a bid to achieve the global UNHLM Targets,” Dr Tobaiwa said