Africa

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.

Dr. Jonathan Quick, President and CEO of MSH, tours with Dr. Christian Nzitimira, director of Kibagabaga Hospital in Rwanda. {Photo credit: Jon Jay/MSH.}Photo credit: Jon Jay/MSH.

In a postoperative ward of Kibagabaga Hospital, the district hospital serving Rwanda’s capital city of Kigali, Eric Bizimana sits up in bed. Bizimana, 25, had sought care after severe pain in his right leg forced him to stop work as a barber. He was diagnosed with a bone infection called osteomyelitis. Antibiotics alone couldn’t clear the infection. Without an operation to remove the diseased bone, Eric faced the possibility of losing his leg.

Eric was one of the 40 patients who enter Kibagabaga for surgery every day. In Rwanda’s tiered healthcare delivery system, patients are referred from local health centers up to the district hospital when their conditions require more complex care. Most babies are delivered at health centers, for example, but a woman suffering complications or who was expected to need a C-section would be referred to the district level.

Patients wait in a well-ventilated area outside the TB clinic in Homa Bay, Kenya. {Photo credit: A. Kwiecien and A. Salakaia / MSH.}Photo credit: A. Kwiecien and A. Salakaia / MSH.

The state of tuberculosis (TB) is in a tug-of-war as current challenges threaten to undo past successes. One of the primary hurdles currently facing TB prevention and cure is the emergence of strains that are resistant to at least two of the most effective medicines (rifampicin and isoniazid).

So-called drug-resistant (DR)-TB arises when patients are unable to complete a full-course of appropriate, high quality anti-TB medicines. As compared with the 6 month treatment regimen for drug-sensitive (DS)-TB, DR-TB requires 18-24 months of treatment with medicines that are less effective, can cause sometimes severe side effects, and can cost up to 300 times more.

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.

{Photo credit: Katy Doyle / MSH.}Photo credit: Katy Doyle / MSH.

Stop TB in my lifetime.

This global call to action---the Stop TB Partnership's theme for March 24, World TB Day 2013---is as relevant now as it was over a hundred years ago.

Progress toward reducing the global burden of tuberculosis (TB) has been impressive in recent years: TB mortality has fallen by 41 percent since 1990.

Yet, TB remains one of the world’s leading causes of death, killing more than 1.4 million people per year, including 70,000 children. In 2011, 600,000 people died of TB in Africa alone---including many people with HIV.

Low detection rates, new strains of multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB), high prevalence of HIV/TB co-infection, and risk of TB among diabetes patients---nearly 10 percent of TB cases are linked to diabetes, add to the challenge of TB control, especially among the poor and most vulnerable.

 {Photo Credit: Abel Helebo/MSH.}Silenat with her three-year-old child, her husband Yirga, and Tadele, a TB focal person at the Keraniyo Health Center.Photo Credit: Abel Helebo/MSH.

Silenat Yihune, a 40-year-old woman, mother, and housewife, lives in a remote region of Huletejuenesie District, Ethiopia, which is approximately 20 kilometers from the closest health facility. For nine months Silenat suffered from a cough, chest pain, fever, and weight loss, but was unable to receive treatment. As is common among Ethiopian families, Silenat was economically dependent upon her husband. He refused to pay for her travel to the distant health facility. Several months later, Silenat’s husband, Yirga, started to show similar symptoms and visited the Keraniyo Health Center, where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB).

Keraniyo Health Center is one of the health facilities in Huletejunesie district supported by the PEPFAR-funded, USAID project, Help Ethiopia Address Low TB Performance (HEAL TB), led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH).

Celia Tusiime Kakande. {Photo: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.}Photo: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.

For most of my life, women in Uganda---as in most countries---were treated as inferior to men. Girls were less likely to be educated than their brothers, and had little control over the direction of their lives. Many girls grew up being told how to act, eat, and talk; many women were regarded as little more than domestic caregivers. However, in 1986 the ruling government radically changed the dynamics of Ugandan women in global development and their participation in decision-making at all levels of government. This International Women’s Day we, in Uganda, are celebrating this transformation with a theme of “connecting girls, inspiring futures,” and wishing women around the world similar progress and success.

Women Lead: Government

Women in Uganda now hold more leadership positions than ever before—35 percent of the seats in Parliament are now occupied by women, and our Speaker of Parliament and Minister of Health are women. The introduction of universal primary education has allowed more girls to begin their schooling, and affirmative action at the university level has provided more women the opportunity to realize their dreams for fulfilling professional careers.

Celia Tusiime Kakande. {Photo: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.}Photo: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.

For most of my life, women in Uganda---as in most countries---were treated as inferior to men. Girls were less likely to be educated than their brothers, and had little control over the direction of their lives. Many girls grew up being told how to act, eat, and talk; many women were regarded as little more than domestic caregivers. However, in 1986 the ruling government radically changed the dynamics of Ugandan women in global development and their participation in decision-making at all levels of government. This International Women’s Day we, in Uganda, are celebrating this transformation with a theme of “connecting girls, inspiring futures,” and wishing women around the world similar progress and success.

Women Lead: Government

Women in Uganda now hold more leadership positions than ever before—35 percent of the seats in Parliament are now occupied by women, and our Speaker of Parliament and Minister of Health are women. The introduction of universal primary education has allowed more girls to begin their schooling, and affirmative action at the university level has provided more women the opportunity to realize their dreams for fulfilling professional careers.

{Photo credit: MSH/South Africa.}Photo credit: MSH/South Africa.

Cross-posted from SHARE: Southern Africa HIV/AIDS Regional Exchange. (SHARE is an initiative of the USAID Southern Africa Regional HIV/AIDS Program with support from the Knowledge for Health project and the Southern Africa HIV and AIDS Information Dissemination Service.)

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