BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
Addressing a media briefing in Harare yesterday, Tichaona Nyamundaya, a top official at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids (Egpaf) said there were several challenges in cases involving children with TB.
“Paediatric TB is a huge public health burden with several cases missing diagnosis. Children currently account for only 8% of notified TB cases and yet the target if around 15%,” he said.
Nyamundaya added that although the country had made strides in addressing the TB epidemic, major challenges in reaching all TB-susceptible populations, such as children, persist.
TB is one of the top 10 causes of death in children, yet only 43% of the estimated one million global paediatric TB cases are identified. In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that one million children ( under 15 years) were infected with TB, but that only 434 044 cases were reported.
More than 253 000 children die each year from TB.
Zimbabwe ranks 19 out of 22 of the most TB-affected countries in the world and most of the challenges lie with the management paediatric TB.
Diagnosis was a big headache in that the signs and symptoms of TB resembled other diseases and conditions like pneumonia and malnutrition.
To mitigate against this challenge, Egpaf in collaboration with the Health ministry are planning to roll out a four-year programme project (2017-2021) funded and supported by Unitaid, which aims to reduce paediatric TB morbidity and mortality.
The programme known as Catalysing Paediatric Tuberculosis Innovation (Cap TB), will be launched on Thursday, to reduce paediatric TB diagnostic and treatment gaps, by improving the capacity to diagnose paediatric TB.
With leadership and guidance of the Health and Child Care ministry’s National TB Programme (NTP), Egpaf will implement activities in 20 pilot sites in the first two years of project, with rollout to an additional 30 sites in the last two years to reach a total of 50 sites
Cap TB will also be rolled out in other sub-Saharan African countries − Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and India.