Reviving Santo: Sudanese Refugee Accesses TB Treatment

Reviving Santo: Sudanese Refugee Accesses TB Treatment

 {Photo credit: Stephen Macharia/MSH.}Santo (right) and his father (left) share how Santo was finally diagnosed and treated for TB after being incorrectly treated for malaria for over two months.Photo credit: Stephen Macharia/MSH.

After South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, disagreements over oil-sharing between the two nations caused fighting and high economic inflation in certain regions. Desperate for security, over 110,000 Sudanese refugees escaped to South Sudan and now reside in camps in Maban County.

Bounj Hospital: Diagnosing and treating residents and refugees

These refugees, and the county’s 40,000 residents, are served by Bounj Hospital, the only TB diagnostic and treatment center in the district. This hospital is currently treating 75 patients for TB, 56 of whom are refugees.

The USAID-funded TB CARE I South Sudan project is helping to build the hospital staff’s capacity in TB treatment and infection control, despite the challenges the health workers face. Led by Management Sciences of Health in partnership with the National TB Program (NTP), the TB CARE I project team has trained over 200 health workers in TB diagnosis and treatment.

TB CARE I also teaches the health workers how to educate their patients about TB infection control and provides the trainees with regular supportive supervision and mentorship.

[Tents used for admitting TB patients in Bounj Hospital.] {Photo credit: Stephen Macharia/MSH South Sudan}Tents used for admitting TB patients in Bounj Hospital.Photo credit: Stephen Macharia/MSH South Sudan

Bakhari correctly diagnoses and treats Santo for TB

The TB program manager at Bounj Hospital, Bakhari Adam, is working hard to ensure that all TB patients initiate treatment and receive the correct medication at the correct times:

I don’t have a room to use as TB clinic and so I am working from… the hospital’s kitchen. Working under these conditions is very difficult. My patients are in the tents… Sometimes the relatives have to share the tents with the patient, which is not good for infection control.

Santo is one of the refugees currently being treated by the newly trained staff. Two weeks ago, Bakhari diagnosed Santo with TB after discovering that he had been diagnosed inaccurately and treated for malaria.

Santo said he is happy that, after just 14 days of treatment, he is feeling strong again. Bakhari has also been teaching Santo about TB prevention and treatment. These lessons have inspired Santo to carefully follow his treatment regimen and to promote TB prevention and testing among his peers.

“If I find anybody with cough I will tell him or her to come to the hospital,” Santo said.

Coordinating TB control throughout South Sudan

The TB CARE I project helps the NTP to coordinate TB control efforts in all 10 of South Sudan’s states. Together, these partners have scaled-up TB interventions identified in the NTP strategic plan and implemented a series of innovative TB prevention and treatment approaches.

TB CARE I’s activities have helped to improve treatment outcomes throughout the nation. In 2008, 6,525 patients were diagnosed with TB in South Sudan and, by 2011, this number had increased to 7,599 identified TB cases. TB CARE I also helped the NTP increase the number of TB diagnostic and treatment centers from 44 in 2008 to 65 in 2012.

Santo reflected on South Sudan’s progress in TB infection control in light of his own recovery. His message to fellow refugees and the South Sudanese shows both his urgency and hope:

“Before you become very ill, come to the hospital early so that you can be diagnosed, treated, and healed!”

Dr. Stephen Macharia is project director of TB CARE I South Sudan at MSH.

Learn more about USAID's TB CARE I.

Editor’s note: This post is part of a " href="">World TB Day blog series on what works to stop TB. Join the conversation in the blog comments, and on Twitter with hashtags " href="" target="_blank"> and " href="" target="_blank">.