HEALTH and Child Care Minister, Dr Constantino Chiwenga has implored government, civil society and the private sector to unite in the face of a century old disease, Tuberculosis (TB), which continues to cause the highest number of deaths globally every year.
By Michael Gwarisa
In a speech read on his behalf by the Deputy Director, AIDS and TB Unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Charles Sandy at the Walk for TB Campaign that was hosted by the Stop TB Partnership Zimbabwe in Harare, , he said government was committed to ending TB but they cant go it alone.
Today we are gathered for an event on our country’s commitment to the achievement of the United Nations High Level Meeting (UN HLM) political declaration and commitment on Tuberculosis. In 2018, the Head of State and President of our country, His Excellency, Dr. Emmerson Mnangagwa joined other world leaders in signing a commitment to end TB by 2030.
“Zimbabwe and the rest of the world is currently faced by a common risk of the COVID-19 pandemic which is threatening the quality of public health and further exposing people vulnerable to chronic non communicable and communicable diseases to further vulnerabilities. This has further strained our already strained public health systems specifically intended to protect and harness quality of life,” he said.
He added that government remains conscious that TB remains the oldest infectious killing disease, killing more people than HIV and Malaria combined.
“The disease has been devastating lives for more than 100 hundred years now. As a country, we have recorded commendable milestones towards eradicating TB as evidenced by the recent removal of Zimbabwe from the World Health Organisation list of countries triple burdened by TB, TB/HIV and MDR-TB. However, more work still needs to be done because despite these efforts, communities at risk of TB continue to suffer hidden vulnerabilities and escalated costs due to the disease.
“Furthermore, similar to COVID-19, TB suffer the problem of misinformation which drives up stigma and discrimination, myths and misconception and fuel late health seeking behaviour. This can only be reversed and corrected by correct information coupled by innovative methods of capturing the interest of communities to TB information; A function I am happy to know is being done collaboratively with celebrities and TB Survivors who were appointed as TB Champions for Zimbabwe. I implore the Ministry of Health and Child Care and Stop TB Partnership Zimbabwe to continue working with diverse partners to enhance knowledge and awareness of TB.”
Zimbabwe has to date recorded commendable milestones towards eradicating TB as evidenced by the recent removal of Zimbabwe from the World Health Organisation list of countries triple burdened by TB, TB/HIV and MDR-TB. However, more work still needs to be done because despite these efforts, communities at risk of TB continue to suffer hidden vulnerabilities and escalated costs due to the disease.
Dr Wilson Marikopo, the Clinical Medical Officer at City of Harare, who was standing in for the City of Harare Health department said there is need to invest resources towards scaling up the fight against TB.
“TB remains one of the deadliest infectious killers in the world and according to the World Health Organization, each day, over 4000 people die of TB and over 28 000 are infected with TB. This is a preventable and curable disease. Yes we are now in an era of COVID-19 but TB has always been there and unfortunately, TB was over shadowed by COVID-19 but we know TB has been this infectious diseases amongst us,” said Dr Marikopo.
He added TB is one the diseases that causes significant morbidity and mortality in Harare and the City has been in the for front in the fight against TB. He however added that COVID-19 has greatly disrupted efforts to fight TB as resources are now concentrated towards fighting COVID-19.
Meanwhile, speaking at the same event, Stop TB Partnership Zimbabwe Chairperson, Mr Donal Rungoyi said there was need to protect the health workforce against TB as they are in direct contact with patients for prolonged periods of time.
“Help me salute our healthcare workers. They are the ones who care for TB patients and in the process, exposing themselves to the infections. Let’s protect our healthcare workers by all means. Let’s ensure they are motivated to work through providing incentives and all kinds of support. Let’s ensure patients and health workers’ nutrition is well catered for. Let me also take this opportunity to announce that all proceeds from this TB Walk will go towards the care of TB pateints here at Wilkins Hospital,” said Mr Rungoyi.