By Francesca Iwambe, Abuja
The World Health Organisation, WHO, reports that the African region has achieved a 26% reduction in TB mortality as the globe observes this year's World Tuberculosis, TB, Day.
In her statement to commemorate the occasion, the WHO Regional Director in Africa, Matshdiso Moeti, stated that the region is currently on the verge of achieving a 35% reduction in TB death rates.
She said that seven nations; Eswatini, Kenya, Mozambique, South Sudan, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia, had achieved a 35 percent decrease in mortality since 2015, noting that the 26 percent decline occurred between 2015 and 2021.
She said; “WHO in the African region is now on the threshold of reaching a 35% TB death reduction: there has been a 26 per cent reduction in TB deaths between 2015 and 2021.
“Seven countries — Eswatini, Kenya, Mozambique, South Sudan, Togo, Uganda and Zambia — have reached a 35 per cent reduction in deaths since 2015”.
While stressing that challenges in TB prevention and control across the African region are significant, the global health body noted that
delayed diagnosis and testing were some of the notable gap between estimated number of new infections and case.
“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% 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% of people newly diagnosed with TB are also living with HIV infection.
“Third, the multi-drug resistant TB. In the African region, only 26% of all people living with multi-drug resistance are receiving the appropriate treatment.
“Still, I am delighted that our Member States are increasing the uptake of new tools and guidance recommended by WHO, resulting in early access to TB prevention and care, and better outcomes. In the African Region, the use of rapid diagnostic testing has increased from 34% in 2020 to 43% in 2021, which will 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% 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.
“TB requires concerted action by all sectors: from communities and businesses to governments, civil society and others”, Dr Moeti added.
She further emphasised the need for collaborative efforts to develop innovative approaches to reach vulnerable populations and ensure that they have access to quality TB care and management.
She added: “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.
“Ending TB is feasible with the decline in TB deaths and cases, and the elimination of economic and social burdens associated with it.
“Specially today, I urge leaders, governments, partners, communities, and all stakeholders to urgently foster the resilient health systems required to accelerate the TB response so that we can reach the Sustainable Development Goals targets by 2030.
“Yes, we can end TB in our lifetime”.