Help Ethiopia Address Low Tuberculosis Performance: Our Impact

 {Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Ethiopia is making progress in tackling tuberculosis, the leading infectious disease killer along with HIV.Photo credit: Warren Zelman

This week, MSH is joining researchers, advocates, civil society, scientists, healthcare professionals, and students working on all aspects of lung health around the world in Guadalajara, Mexico for the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health, where tuberculosis is the key topic. Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, with over 95% of TB deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Although tremendous progress has been made in the ongoing fight against this disease, some key segments of the population continue to shoulder the burden of TB more acutely.

 {Photo: HEAL TB Ethiopia}Aster Gemede and her daughter, Lemlem, at a TB clinic in Borena.Photo: HEAL TB Ethiopia

Aster Gemede lost her husband to tuberculosis (TB) meningitis early in 2012. Struck with grief, Gemede did not notice her own deteriorating health in the months after his death. Cough, fever, chest pain, and loss of appetite became part of her everyday life. She hardly noticed she was losing weight. When Gemede got to the point where she was unable to look after her two children, she was forced to walk eight hours from her home in rural Borena zone, Oromia, Ethiopia, to the nearest health facility.  

 {Photo credit: Berhan Teklehaimanot/MSH}HEAL TB has trained 471 district TB focal persons on identification and management of TB in children in the Amhara and Oromia regions of Ethiopia.Photo credit: Berhan Teklehaimanot/MSH

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that up to 80,000 children die from tuberculosis (TB) each year and that children account for over half a million new cases annually. Unfortunately, global figures likely underestimate the burden of childhood TB worldwide due to missed diagnosis, causing TB in children to be a ‘’hidden epidemic.”

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

For over a decade, the Government of Ethiopia has been working to improve tuberculosis (TB) screening and has been greatly successful in increasing case detection. Unfortunately, as is too often the case, solving one problem created another: the nation now struggles to maintain an adequate supply of medicine to treat the newly diagnosed patients. Health facilities experience frequent stock outs of anti-TB medications, leaving many patients without treatment for weeks and even months.

{Photo: Warren Zelman}Photo: Warren Zelman

Azmara Ashenafi, a 35-year-old woman from the Amhara region of Ethiopia, was recently diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) and placed on treatment. Although she took this medicine for months, her symptoms persisted and eventually became so severe that she sought further treatment at the Muja Health Center.

 {Photo credit: Eskindir Degu/MSH}Endiros Tadiswal after completing two months of TB treatment.Photo credit: Eskindir Degu/MSH

When the community health worker knocked on his door, Endiros Tadiswal was relieved. The 19-year-old boy had been suffering from a terrible cough, chest pains, fever, and weight loss for nearly six months and had become too weak to attend school.

Sileshi Idris recording TB data at Fito Health Center, Ethiopia. {Photo credit: Kelem Kebede/MSH.}Photo credit: Kelem Kebede/MSH.

“I once had tuberculosis myself. I was stigmatized by the community and could not receive appropriate treatment. My own suffering encouraged me to serve the community so I could protect more people from being infected by TB,” said Sileshi Idiris, a clinical nurse and tuberculosis (TB) focal person at Fito Health Center in Ethiopia. Despite his enthusiasm to work as a TB focal person, Sleshi initially lacked the knowledge and skills to properly care for TB patients. Sleshi needed clinical skills training and guidance on how to follow Ethiopia’s national TB control guidelines.

Staff from a medical team at Gerems Health Center who were trained by HEAL TB to identify individuals with TB symptoms and refer them to a health center for treatment. {Photo credit: Dr. Kassahun Melkieneh/ MSH.}Photo credit: Dr. Kassahun Melkieneh/ MSH.

Twenty-two-year-old Melkamu Belete was misdiagnosed and left without proper treatment for six months. Although Melkamu had visited four health facilities to be treated for a cough, fever, and loss of appetite, the health care staff did not test him for tuberculosis (TB). Instead, each facility sent him home with antibiotics that did not heal him. Despite worsening symptoms, Melkamu eventually gave up and stopped seeking medical advice.

Printer Friendly Version