Improving Treatment of Tuberculosis in Kalenda, Democratic Republic of the Congo

In Kalenda, a Congolese woman diagnosed with tuberculosis takes her medication following the “Directly Observed Treatment, Short-Course” approach, also known as DOTS. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a leading cause of death in Democratic Republic of the Congo, in part, because of a lack of access to diagnosis and treatment for those suffering from the disease. For example, in the health area of Kalenda in Kasaï Oriental province there are only two TB care and treatment centers for a population of more than 195,000 people. 

Under the USAID-funded Democratic Republic of Congo-Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP), led by Management Sciences for Health with partners the International Rescue Committee and Overseas Strategic Consulting, efforts are underway to improve the basic health conditions of the Congolese people in 80 health zones in four provinces, including increased care and treatment of tuberculosis (TB). 

In Kalenda, the Provincial Health Division has been building the capacity of health workers, with USAID support, since last year. Training has focused on reinforcing their skills to help them identify TB cases and better manage patient care. Through the project, Kalenda has implemented the “Directly Observed Treatment, Short-Course” (DOTS) approach -- the approach globally endorsed by all major health organizations. The DRC-IHP project is also supporting the transportation costs of TB commodities to Kalenda’s treatment centers. Ensuring the supply of high quality, appropriate medications and supporting patients to complete their doses correctly is particularly important in cases of TB, which has many drug-resistant strains.

In addition, the DRC-IHP project launched a community awareness campaign to educate local residents about disease symptoms and the availability of treatment. The project also organized community participation in World TB Day, as another way to educate those at risk for the illness. 

The new emphasis on patient education, care and treatment has been supported by DRC-IHP’s provision of transportation for suspected cases to the two care and treatment centers in Kalenda. This ensures that a greater number of patients in remote areas, who lacked the resources for travel to the centers, are now being tested and treated. 

These actions have increased the numbers of people being tested and treated for TB. The rate of TB detection in Kalenda rose from 48 percent of expected cases in 2010 to 82 percent in the first quarter of this year, and 100 percent by the second quarter of 2011. Treatment percentages rose from 35 percent to 84 percent in the same time period. 

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