Government must up fight against TB

ON March 24, Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in marking World Tuberculosis (TB) Day amid calls for better response to the infectious disease, which is among the top 10 causes of death and the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent — above HIV/Aids — globally.

In keeping with this year’s theme “It’s time,” Zimbabwe joined the global community in committing to scaling up access to prevention and treatment, build accountability, ensure sufficient and sustainable financing, promote an end to TB stigma and discrimination as well as promote an equitable and people-centred TB response.

The Health ministry has also promised to escalate efforts towards meeting the global goal of decreasing annual TB incidence by 90 percent.
Though the promises made by government are very impressive on paper, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. 
Over the years, government has proved that it is long on promises and short on delivery. 

One of the reasons why government continues to dismally fail to meet its health undertakings is the persistent failure to comply with the Abuja Declaration of 2001 which stipulates that health has to account for 15 percent of the national budget. 
Without adequate funding, Zimbabwe’s short-term strategic plan which seeks to realise the global target of 90 percent TB reduction will remain at best a pipe dream. 

While we appreciate the fact that the Health ministry has partnered with Union Zimbabwe, which coordinates the USAid-funded five-year TB Care I and the PEPFAR-funded TB-HIV integrated care programmes, we also want the government to put its money on the table to demonstrate that it is committed to the fight against TB. 

We can’t continue relying on donor funding and then somehow pretend to be committed to ending one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases.

We have to build on the progress we have made to date. For example, the TB incidence has declined from a peak of 617 per 100 000 in 2003 to 221 per 100 000 in 2017.  
Mortality related to TB has declined from a peak of 25 per 100 000 in 2006 to 12 per 100 000 in 2017.  

Despite the notable gains garnered over the years, Zimbabwe has to guard against complacency and self-congratulation because there is still so much to do.

Zimbabwe must, among other things, continue to fight to realise improved access to appropriate treatment, increased awareness, education, and advocacy to end stigma.


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