The Union Hands Over TB REACH Project To Ministry Of Health

By Staff Reporter

The Union Zimbabwe Trust (UZT) with financial assistance from the Stop TB Partnership has handed over the TB REACH project recently completed, to the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

In 2021, UZT was among recipients of the Stop TB Partnership Wave 9 funding awarded to 11 projects across eight countries, focusing on innovative approaches to address Drug Resistant TB (DR-TB). In Zimbabwe, the two-year project worth US$600,000 was implemented across three provinces, namely; Bulawayo, Matabeleland South and Midlands across 19 districts, selected on account of their disproportionate burden of disease.

The project goal was to find and treat all people with DR-TB with an ALL oral treatment regimen which is more patient friendly and less toxic to improve treatment adherence and outcomes. UZT Executive Director, Ronald Ncube acknowledged this investment from the Stop TB Partnership as catalytic; amplifying the voice of people most affected by DR-TB.

The project provided an insight into the burden of DR-TB burden in Zimbabwe, including the catastrophic costs faced by patients afflicted by the disease. The intervention from the Stop TB Partnership was timely, and enabled a collaborative response between the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) and UZT, in addressing real concerns related to DR-TB in the country,” Dr Ncube says.

“As we hand over the project to the Government of Zimbabwe, we are proud of the shared milestones realized in the last 2 years. It is our hope that the MOHCC will sustain the response and ensure nationwide coverage of more patient centric treatment options for DR-TB.”

The TB REACH intervention was multi-pronged as it addressed various facets in response to the burden of DR-TB. Under the project, DR-TB patients received nutritional support through food hampers. At project inception, Community Health Workers and influential community leaders were oriented on DR-TB and their role in finding missed cases and providing treatment adherence support. Healthcare workers from the project districts also received training on the Advanced Clinical Management of DR-TB.

The project also procured three 10-Color GeneXpert machines which were successfully installed at Gwanda and Gweru Provincial Hospitals as well as Thorngrove Hospital in Bulawayo with on job training on use of equipment provided to laboratory staff. This special piece of equipment has capacity to establish the resistance profile of a wider spectrum of anti-TB medicines.

Dr Buhlebenkosi Ndlovu of Thorngrove Hospital, one of the beneficiaries of the GeneXpert machines in Bulawayo says the machine received has made the diagnosis process easier and faster. “It has made TB diagnosis, especially DR-TB faster as a patient can now be initiated on treatment already knowing whether they are fluoroquinolone resistant or sensitive. The clinician knows from the onset what they would be dealing with.”

The NTP, as custodians of the project innovation is expected to scale up the innovation more widely, including supporting trained staff through regular mentorship, support and supervision.

“The TB REACH project was instrumental in the introduction and use of 10 color xpert technology in the country. This was a big step in building capacity to adopt newer treatment regimens for DR-TB, at the same time evaluating the robustness of our systems to create secure linkages to health care for DR-TB patients. Furthermore, the treatment enablers in the form of nutritional hampers, enhanced care for the patients during the project lifetime,” said Dr Kavenga.

At project handover, 617 community leaders, across the 19 project districts had received orientation on DR-TB – these included traditional (Chiefs, Headmen, Village Heads), religious (Priests, Pastors, Church elders), municipal/political (Councillors, Ward Leaders). The project also trained 483 community health workers and 93 skilled healthcare workers in the supported districts.

During the project, 199 people were notified with DR-TB and 186 were initiated on treatment. The project also supported the purchase and distribution of 590 food hampers for DR-TB patients across the 19 supported districts.

According to the WHO Global TB Report of 2023, TB remains a major public health emergency globally, causing an estimated 1.3 million deaths in 2022. In Zimbabwe, 18,200 people fell ill with TB in 2022, with 242 cases of DR-TB being notified to the TB Control Program. This is despite it being both preventable and curable.

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