The Stop TB Partnership in Zimbabwe has just concluded a series of regional consultative meetings on the UNHLM 2023, in a bit to enhance the participation of communities and to sensitize, engage, and consult stakeholders in preparation for the UNHLM on TB to be held from September20 to 22, 2023.
By Michael Gwarisa
A total of three regional meetings were held in Harare (covering Harare Metropolitan, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, and Mashonaland Central Provinces), Bulawayo (covering Bulawayo Metropolitan, Masvingo, Matebeleland North, Matebeleland South, and Midlands Provinces) and Mutare (covering Manicaland Province).
The meetings follow the conclusion of consultancy work around the critical analysis and assessment of the country’s UNHLM targets and commitments against achievements, mapping exercises to understand the country’s TB funding situation, and public health expenditure analysis and synthesis.
Speaking in an interview with HealthTimes, Dr Fungai Kavenga, Acting Deputy Director AIDS & TB Programs (TB Control) in the Ministry of Health in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) said the stakeholder consultations were crucial on mapping the country’s TB trajectory.
In September 2023, the world will be gathered in New York City for the High-Level meeting on TB which is a follow-up to the first meeting that was done in 2018. As a country, we made commitments back in 2018 and the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), working with the Stop TB partnership Zimbabwe is holding these stakeholder engagements so as to review the progress the country has made in terms of those commitments and also come up with key asks and commitments that the country particularly our leadership has to make in 2023,” said Dr Kavenga.
A number of issues emerged during the stakeholder meetings and these range from the status of domestic TB financing, inclusion of persons living with TB in the planning processes for TB, Gender Mainstreaming of TB, and TB in mining communities amongst a host of other issues.
“The most significant issue that came out in almost all the stakeholder meetings is the issue of limited resources for TB control. I think what is coming out from across the region is a call for increased domestic resources for TB and increased access to highly sensitive screening tools for TB.”
Zimbabwe was moved from the world’s top 30 list of countries heavily burdened by TB. It now has a double burden of TB/HIV and MDR-TB. According to the 2022 Global TB Report, TB estimated incidence of 190 /100,000 population was recorded in 2020 while treatment coverage was 54 percent in 2021, decreasing from 72 percent in 2019 (Global TB Report, 2022). An estimated 12,520 cases were missed in 2021. TB/HIV co-infection rate of 50 percent (Global TB Report, 2022), a drop from 54 percent in 2021. An Estimated Rifampicin of Resistant-TB was 1.7 percent among new and 28 percent among previously treated.
Dr. Donald Tobaiwa, the Jointed Welfare Organisation (JHWO) Executive Director said the meetings gave them a forum to engage with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and communities working with people at risk of TB and also the TB community.
“We started off in Harare where we gathered the views of Civil Society at large and diverse representatives from different communities including those with lived experiences, the TB survivors themselves. These were coming in to share what can make the TB response better and how we can equally address the gaps as a country.
“We also went to Bulawayo so that we could get the views of those in the Southern Region around the TB response. We also had a consultation in Manicaland from the teams from the Eastern region where we getting views around the key asks to make the product do better,” said Dr. Tobaiwa.
Meanwhile, Ms. Moleen Chipoyi, a TB Survivor from Mutare welcomed the decision by Stop TB Partnership to hold stakeholder meetings across the country.
“These meetings have given us the platform to share some of our concerns as people who survived TB and as communities working with people who have TB and those affected. These meetings also inform us of the current state of TB and some of the new developments around TB. We have given the team our requests and we hope they present them at the UNHLM 2023 meeting,” said Ms Chipoyi.
In Bulawayo, one of the issues that was raised from the meeting was the inclusion of artisanal miners in TB programs and services reach them at their work stations.
Mrs Kundai Chikonzo, Midzi a Small Scale miner in Filabusi and also the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Women in Mining Association said, “We cannot draw a line in terms of TB and mining. Mining is where there are TB hotspots due to a number of factors. As part of the stakeholders we are able to assist the Stop TB team to have better data and information on how they can manage the TB situation in mining.”