Kenya, Uganda step up war against tuberculosis

President's Advisor on Women's Rights Harriette Chiggai and IGAD head of mission to Kenya Fatuma Adan during a past event. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The fight against tuberculosis among cross-border mobile populations in Kenya and Uganda has received a major boost following the launch of a USAID-funded programme to combat the disease within the two countries.

A workshop bringing together key stakeholders in health sectors in Uganda and Kenya was held on Monday at a Machakos hotel where the players laid down elaborate interventions to deal with TB.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) head of mission to Kenya, Fatuma Adan said the project was a crucial step forward in the collective efforts by Kenya and Uganda to fight tuberculosis among the cross-border populations.

“Tuberculosis remains a significant public health challenge, and its impact is even more pronounced among mobile populations that often face barriers in accessing healthcare services,” Dr Adan said.

She noted that the initiative was informed by the existing challenges faced by cross-border mobile populations in accessing treatment for TB and the need for innovative, cross-border solutions to address the challenges.

Adan said the intervention was anchored on consultations and collaborative discussions among the partnering organisations to identify the key barriers to TB control among the mobile populations and explore potential strategies to crush these barriers.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Kenya ranks among the highest TB burden countries globally with a high prevalence of drug-resistant and drug-susceptible TB. In 2022, approximately 90,841 new cases were reported.

She revealed that TB prevalence was higher among vulnerable populations including individuals living with HIV/Aids, prisoners, urban slum dwellers, cross-border mobile populations and other marginalized communities.

Uganda, being one of the world’s 30 high-burden countries for TB and TB/HIV co-infection, some 91,000 people contract TB with 32 per cent of them being HIV –infected. The WHO says two out of every 100 people with TB have drug-resistant TB that is not cured by first-line drugs, while approximately 15 per cent of TB bases in Uganda are children aged below 14.

One of the targeted interventions is to enhance cross-border coordination including collaboration between healthcare authorities, providers and communities across the Kenya-Uganda border.

“By strengthening coordination and information sharing mechanisms, the project will facilitate seamless continuity of care for the cross-border mobile populations ensuring they receive uninterrupted TB services regardless of their movement across borders,” she said.

The project will also invest in building the capacity of healthcare providers in border areas to effectively identify, diagnose, and treat TB among the cross-border mobile populations.

“This includes training on TB screening, diagnostic techniques, treatment protocols and patient management, equipping frontline workers with the skills and knowledge needed to address TB effectively within mobile populations,” Adan said.

Uganda’s Commissioner for Health, Mike Mwanga hailed the programme as a major breakthrough in the fight against TB in the two countries.

Noting that TB was the second leading cause of mortality in Uganda, Dr Mwanga expressed confidence that the targeted interventions would yield fruit in reversing the situation.

“Lack of adequate funding, understaffing and the points of entry as well as insecurity, have been some of the major challenges in the war on TB but we strongly believe the new program will address all these,” he said.

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