Ministry of Health Principal Secretary (Administration) Bestone Chisamile has said Covid-19 has affected the provision of tuberculosis (TB) services in the country.
He said this in a statement issued yesterday as Malawi joined the rest of the world in commemorating the World TB Day under the theme The Clock is Ticking.
Said Chisamile: “In the era of Covid-19 pandemic, health facilities have seen a reduction in the number of people seeking TB diagnostic and treatment services. Much as the world is focusing on fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, we should not do so at the expense of TB medical resources, supplies and attention.
“The country is investing heavily in the field of human resource for health, diagnostics, infrastructure, medicines and supplies, as well as developing and strengthening sustainable systems to support the fight against TB.”
He said the investments have resulted in TB cases declining at two to three percent per annum in the past five years, while treatment success rate has increased from 82 percent in 2015 to 88 percent in 2019.
Chisamile has since urged stakeholders to support health care providers in raising awareness on signs and symptoms of TB but also innovate to remove the barriers that communities face in accessing TB.
During a media orientation on paediatric TB organised by the Facilitators of Community Transformation (Fact) in Blantyre last week, it emerged that TB diagnosis and management among children are a challenge in the country due to lack of awareness.
Fact director of programmes Benjamin Mosiwa said: “Any child under the age of five that comes from a home with an adult that has TB, children with HIV and those with health problems such as malnutrition need to be put on preventive TB therapy.”
On his part, National TB Control Programme care and treatment officer Kuzani Mbendera said with various interventions, TB cases have dropped by 26 percent over the past 10 years, with children making up nine percent of the total case burdens, translating to 1 300 children per year.
A nationwide TB prevalence survey conducted in 2014 revealed that out of 100 000 people, 334 develop active TB each year, and that more men are affected than women, adding that the burden is more urban than in rural areas.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), everyday 4 000 people lose their lives to TB and almost to 28 000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.
Locally, statistics show that 16 000 Malawians get infected every year and that 10 percent of these succumb to the disease.