Starting from January up to June this year, the Northern Region has recorded 933 Tuberculosis cases.
Mercy Kamwela, who is Northern Region TB Officer, said the cases are from all the districts in the Northern region and the high number of cases is due to factors such as malnutrition especially in children as well as poor living conditions where ventilation is not good and facilitates transmission of TB.
“We also have got issues of HIV because TB is a disease which will get an opportunity when someone’s immunity is very low so this is one of the factors contributing to TB cases,” said Kamwela.
According to Kamwela, the treatment success rate for TB in the Northern Region is at 86 percent but it was supposed to be at 90 percent and above.
“So sometimes our patients die because they report late to the facility. The main challenge is that we think we haven’t reached out to many people on the campaign awareness about TB symptoms. So if we can do better on that so that people in the community should know about TB and then report with symptoms to the health facilities for diagnosis,” she said.
Kamwela also told Malawi24 that they have put in place structures which they use to detect as many TB cases as possible.
She said they have systematic TB screening where every client who visit a hospital is supposed to be screened for TB and they also have mobile diagnostic units which is a mobile clinic and it moves around TB hotspot areas where they screen TB and diagnose TB cases.
“We also have TB volunteers in the community, they also help us a lot in finding active TB cases by screening them and collecting sputum. We also work hand in hand with traditional healers where we provide information on some signs and symptoms of TB and then when a client visit them with those signs they are able to refer clients to the hospitals,” said Kamwela.
Commenting on the same, Maziko Matemba who is a health rights activist said the number of cases recorded in the Northern Region is an indicator that there are challenges in terms of managing TB cases more especially at community level.
Matemba also noted that as a country, Malawi has a challenge of multi-drug resistance to TB and the resistance comes because some people do not complete medication.
According to Matemba, Government needs to intensify TB surveillance at community level and also make sure that all stakeholders are involved.
“So the most important thing is to make sure that there is proper integration of TB disease surveillance, proper integration in terms of how these TB is managed but also looking at the commitment which Malawi has made at the UN, we need also look at how those commitments will be implemented because one of the commitments is to reach out to communities,” said Matemba.