community leaders

Mukabaha Ntakwigere (at right) at the General Reference Hospital in Nyangezi, DRC. {Photo credit: MSH staff.}Photo credit: MSH staff.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a leading cause of death in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), partly due to a low case detection rate within the health system, compounded by little knowledge or awareness among patients of the disease’s symptoms. In the province of Sud Kivu, where people have relied on traditional healers for generations, those who were suffering from the persistent, painful coughing that is one symptom of TB were advised by traditional healers that they had been poisoned, and they were not referred to health centers.

In Sud Kivu province, in the health zone of Nyangezi, with a population of roughly 129,000 people, case detection was below 12%, which is the minimum "acceptable" threshold for TB detection.

Medical professionals in Nyangezi realized that they were never going to identify and treat those suffering from TB until they could educate the community about the symptoms and the treatment methods.

Grace Tsawe owns a prayer camp in Ghana's Lower Manya Krobo District. She recovered from TB, and uses her experience to encourage others to be tested and treated medically for TB. {Photo credit: B. Adusei/MSH.}Photo credit: B. Adusei/MSH.

Tuberculosis (TB) control in Ghana is challenging: detection of TB cases is low, and TB mortality rates high. In many communities, like Lower Manya Krobo District, these challenges are compounded by the popular belief that TB is a spiritual disease. Many Ghanaians who contract TB seek healing in prayer camps and shrines, rather than going to health facilities for testing and treatment. By the time these patients seek medical care, it often is too late to recover and avert death.

Lower Manya Krobo District has over 93,000 residents, and a high incidence of TB (209 cases per 100,000 people in 2011). The district is also home to many of the nation’s mushrooming prayer camps, where local healers provide daily services for ill residents. There are 50 prayer camps in Lower Manya Krobo District---and only 18 health facilities.

Grace Tsawe owns a prayer camp in this district, and she usually sees over 100 patients on her main clinic day.

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