GWERU: Zimbabwe is among the five countries that were recently removed from the Tuberculosis (TB) burdened countries worldwide as stated in a World Health Organisation (WHO) release on new global lists of high-burden countries for TB, HIV-associated TB and drug-resistant TB.
Zimbabwe is listed among Cambodia, Gabon, Mongolia and Uganda.
“WHO has officially communicated with the ministers of health of Cambodia, the Russian Federation and Zimbabwe, to inform them about their country’s transition out of the list of 30 high TB burden countries and to recognize their success in reducing the burden of TB disease in recent years.
“Between 2015 and 2019, incidence (per 100 000 population per year) fell by an estimated 22%, 25% and 18%, respectively, in the three countries,” wrote WHO in the release.
Experts however say the war against TB is still on as they highlighted that the country has not yet completely eradicated the aliment but has simply been removed from red flagged nations.
Speaking to CommuTalk, Deputy Director of National TB Control in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Charles Sandy said there is a high possibility of becoming a high-risk country again if enough investment is not channeled towards fighting the aliment.
“The implication of this categorization is reflection of the progress made over the past few years in reducing the incidence of TB to the extent that we are no longer among the top 30 high burden countries. This also means we are no longer a global priority focus country and inadvertently may lead to less global investment in the National TB response.
“The risk of this is that as incidence declines, TB cases become more elusive to detect and cost more to identify. This thereby necessitates a greater need for more investment towards an effective response rather than less. This conundrum is however not easily appreciated by funders and policymakers,” Dr Sandy said.
“We must therefore not be reluctant as a nation since we have not yet totally eradicated TB. The incidence rate for 2020 was estimated at 199 per 100 000 which is still high. There is also need to invest more in a robust accessible high quality health system for a sustainable TB response and to address the social determinant of poor health towards even more accelerated elimination of TB,” Dr Sandy added.
Stop TB Zimbabwe however said the development is reflective of what their statistics said though they are also of the view that the nation must not be reluctant following the development.
“Being part of the countries that have been transitioned from the 30 high TB burden means that there is progress as a country we are on the right path. In essence, we have less people dying and many completing their treatments successfully,” said Stop TB Partnership Zimbabwe Chairperson, Ronald Rungoyi.
“The report also shows that our interventions are yielding positive results though we are not saying we are now safe from TB. More work needs to be done as being out of the red zone doesn’t mean we have eradicated TB,” he added.
Data from the government’s TB program shows a considerable reduction in TB cases in the past five years.
The statistics in possession of CommuTalk show that 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 recorded 27 353, 26 401, 25 775, 21 577 and 16 001 cases respectively.