The World Health Organisation (WHO) has spoken in superlative terms about the accelerated action of Africa to end Tuberculosis in the Region.
The United Nations Agency said the Region has made some remarkable strides towards the eradication of the preventable disease.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshdiso Moeti, made the commendation in her message to mark this year’s World TB Day with the theme, “Yes, we can end TB,” highlighting the need to ensure equitable access to prevention and care, in line with our drive towards Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.
“In 2021, with a clear roadmap, the WHO in the African Region showed that it is possible to reach – and even surpass –the first milestone of the End TB Strategy (20% reduction by 2020), with a decline rate of 22% in new infections since 2015.
“Through our technical support, leading advocacy, and effective partnerships, enormous progress has been made over the past decade, especially in the East and Southern African Regions. High-burden countries, like Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia have surpassed or reached the 20% target of reducing new TB cases.”
While she waxed lyrical about the improved public awareness which has accounted for a 26% reduction in TB deaths between 2015 and 2021, she, however, conceded that across the region, the challenges in TB prevention and control are significant.
“The WHO in the African Region is now on the threshold of reaching a 35% TB death reduction: there has been a 26% reduction in TB deaths between 2015 and 2021. Seven countries— Eswatini, Kenya, Mozambique, South Soudan, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia—have reached a 35% reduction in deaths since 2015.
“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,” Moeti regretted.
She expressed delight over the use of rapid diagnostic testing in Africa which has increased from 34% in 2020 to 43% in 2021, and will improve countries’ ability to detect and diagnose new cases of the disease.
She advocated the cooperation of all Stakeholders in ensuring that TB 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.
“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,” the WHO Regional Director for Africa revealed.