By Binta S. Jawo
Programs Manager at the National Leprosy and Tuberculosis Program (NLTP) Mr Wandifa Samateh urged the Gambia to increase its efforts to fight Tuberculosis (TB) on World TB Day which was commemorated on 24th March 2022. The theme for this year’s commemoration is “Invest to End TB. Saves Lives”. According to Mr Sanneh, the emergence of Covid 19 has made the fight to end TB more challenging.
TB is an air-borne disease that is transferred when an infected person coughs or sneezes thereby spreading germs into the air. Some of the signs of TB include; cough that lasts for more than two weeks without improvement, fever, blood-tinged sputum, night sweat, unexplained weight loss, feeling tired/fatigued, loss of appetite, pain or swelling in the affected areas.
A representative from the NLTP, Mr Sainey Cham delivered a presentation on TB and its history. Mr Cham revealed that TB is the second most infectious disease after Covid 19 and the 13th leading cause of death worldwide. TB is also a leading cause of death among people living with HIV/AIDs. The disease is curable with the use of high-quality anti-TB medications for at least 6 months noted Mr Cham.
Addressing members of the press, World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative Dr Desta says TB is a serious obstacle to the development of African countries. He added that part of the SDG’s agenda is to end TB by 2030. Dr Desta noted that World TB day is an opportunity to focus on the people affected by TB and to rally the call for accelerated actions to end TB, especially during this Covid period. He concluded by urging partners to increase their finance in the fight against TB.
The Deputy Director of the National Aid Secretariat (NAS) Alpha Khan informed the press that every day over 4,100 people die from TB and almost 30,00 people fall ill from TB. Khan highlighted that the treatment and diagnosis of TB is absolutely free in all health facilities across the country, however, there is a gap in the investment against TB.
Representing the Minister of Health, Dr Momodou T. Nyassi who serves as the Deputy Director of Health Services elaborated on the importance of commemorating the day as it reminds people of the global health threat presented by TB. Dr Nyassi informed the audience that annually an estimated 10million people fall ill with TB and a total of 1.5million people die from TB globally. Out of the 1.5 million people who die annually, 214,000 of them also suffer from HIV. Looking at those who survive in October 2021 the WHO estimated that 66 million people were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between the years 2000 and 2020.
Speaking on behalf of the Medical Research Council of the Gambia (MRCG), Dr Abdou K. Sillah under the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine explained that significant diversion of resources to the fight against Covid 19 has scaled down the efforts to fight TB. Dr Sillah revealed that they are working with partners to end TB in the country through research and supporting the families of affected persons.
To prevent TB requires early diagnosis and appropriate prompt treatment which may require tuberculosis preventive therapy and covering the mouth and nose whilst coughing or sneezing.