The Government cannot account for 86,000 TB patients who may be spreading the infectious disease in communities, according to an organisation of Catholic bishops.
The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) yesterday said some 146,000 cases of TB had been detected in the country by the end of last year.
Out of this, only 60,000 have been traced and put on treatment. This emerged when members of KCCB, the National TB Programme and officials from nine counties met under the ‘Komesha TB’ initiative in Naivasha to seek ways of addressing challenges posed by the disease in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
It emerged many TB patients have defaulted on treatment which has been attributed, partly, to the stigma associated with Covid-19.
KCCB technical advisor on TB, Michael Macharia, said Kenya is among 30 countries with the biggest TB burden.
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He said some of those suffering from TB may not even be aware due to poor screening. The situation has further been compounded by Covid-19 that has seen those with signs, including coughing, shy off.
“The World Health Organisation has set 2030 as the date by which all countries should have dealt with TB. But as a country, we are doing poorly on this goal,” Macharia said.
He also noted that support from the Global Fund has been declining which has in turn affected set interventions. He, however, lauded the Ministry of Health for increasing its allocation towards fighting TB.
Macharia said the country reported at least 692 cases of Multi-Drug-Resistance (MDR-TB) last year due on defaulting on treatment by patients.
His sentiments were echoed by the coordinator of TB and Leprosy programme in Siaya Mary Juma who noted that between January 2018 to date, the county has recorded 69 new cases of MDR-TB.
She attributed this to defaulting on treatment. She said the county needs at least Sh2 million to treat one patient suffering from MDR-TB.
At the same time, Juma expressed concern over the rising cases of minors suffering from TB. She noted that many people were unknowingly living with the disease, partly due to the high cost of chest X-rays.
Ms Agatha Wambugu, KCCB’s programmes officer, said they are working with nine counties in Western Kenya to fight TB. Under a KCCB initiative funded by USAID, Ms Wambugu said they are also working with various hospitals to reach out to patients and offer treatment.
“We are using the church to reach out to the people suffering from TB. We are asking the community to support these patients as many of them face stigma,” she said.
Ms Hazel Oyungu, also from KCCB, noted that Covid-19 pandemic has affected the treatment of TB in Kenya as patients avoid health facilities over the stigma associated with it.
“TB and Covid-19 have similar symptoms and many patients avoid getting tested over fear of being quarantined and this is rolling backs the gains we had made the fight against TB,” she said.