March 26, 2018 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The Ministry of Health and Sanitation, together with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Civil Society Movement Against Tuberculosis (CISMAT) has called on stakeholders, especially policy makers and those affected by the disease, to speak up and take action to end the disease in the country.
Sierra Leone, on Saturday, March 24, joined countries around the world to observe this year’s World Tuberculosis (TB) Day on the theme: “Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free world. You can make history-end TB”.
The country is among 30 other nations in the world with a high burden of the disease globally. TB is regarded as the world’s leading cause of death from a single infectious agent.
According to the Programme Manager of National Leprosy and Tuberculosis Control Programme in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Linda Foray, World TB Day aims at building public awareness against the disease, which still remains a major public health and global security concern.
She disclosed that out of 46, 878 persons that were screened in 2017, 16,142 were found to have the disease with 89% of them successfully treated and 12.4% co-infected with HIV.
She said Sierra Leone is among the top 10 highest incident rate with at least 10,000 estimated new cases per year, adding that they need the collective effort of everyone to be able to reverse the trend.
Dr. Foray, however, noted that despite the many challenges, they have been able to record some achievements over the years, citing the establishment of the first ever Drug Resistant TB Management Centre at Lakka, provision of TB/DR-TB diagnosis in ten health facilities and the maintenance of high TB treatment success rate over the last six years.
“Currently there are still many TB patients who are not diagnosed. This contributes to continuous transmission of the disease and increases the risk of complications for those affected. We have seen great progress in our capacity to manage TB cases with treatment and testing available free of cost,” she said.
She urged all and sundry to become a partner and support TB programme implementation at national and district level, and also advocate with community leaders and the government to do more and support the national strategy to end TB.
Also, national coordinator of CISMAT, Abdul Sesay, noted that although progress was being made, there is still more to be done to eradicate the disease.
Sesay stated that even though they are making frantic efforts as an organisation to find the 40% missing cases, much remains to be done to detect TB cases in communities.
“We have observed that stigma is preventing infected patients to access TB treatment and services. Multi drug resistant TB is on the increase, but unfortunately investment in TB is low, whilst research and development is inadequate,” he said.
He added that TB could only be eliminated when those affected by the disease are placed at the centre of the TB response.