The Standard Group Plc is a multi-media organization with investments in media platforms spanning newspaper print operations, television, radio broadcasting, digital and online services. The Standard Group is recognized as a leading multi-media house in Kenya with a key influence in matters of national and international interest.
  • Standard Group Plc HQ Office,
  • The Standard Group Center,Mombasa Road.
  • P.O Box 30080-00100,Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Telephone number: 0203222111, 0719012111
  • Email: [email protected]

Agency urges state to decongest schools, screen learners for TB

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha. [File, Standard]

An international anti-Tuberculosis organisation has called on the government to begin TB screening in schools to reverse the spiking cases of the disease in the country.

The Stop TB Partnership, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and brings together more than 2000 governmental and no-governmental organisations, has also asked the Ministry of Education to improve infrastructure in schools.

StopTB Partnership’s Coordinator in Kenya, Evaline Kibuchi, said congestion is a breeding ground for TB in schools.

Kabuchi also called on the government to invest in prevention and treatment of TB and HIV, saying TB in children has been a major issue affecting at least 12 per cent of children below 15 years.

At least children aged between five and 15 are in learning institutions, whose education is largely interrupted.

“Ministry of Education is keen administering deworming drugs. Why are the Ministries of Health and Education not screening for TB as they do for worms? Posed Kibuchi.

The ministry should also ensure periodic screening of TB in learning institutions,” she added.

In 2023, at least 139,000 people developed TB in Kenya, 17,000 of whom were children.

Kibuchi said diagnosis of TB in children is challenging, as sputum has to be removed for tests.

Extraction of sputum can be uncomfortable in children because it involves inserting pipes in the respiratory system.

Children present with loss of weight, lack of appetite and fever - symptoms which can easily be mistaken for other diseases leading to misdiagnosis.

TB is a respiratory disease with symptoms including persistent cough, high body temperatures, fatigue, tiredness and night sweats.

Despite efforts by the government to provide treatment, Kibuchi said children with TB face stigma from the community and their peers.

“There is a lot of stigma in TB among children,” she said citing a Form Three student who was chased from school after he opened up to his teachers about his condition.

Kibuchi said the student was forced to be a day scholar in a boarding school, to sit in isolation in class and allocated special cups and utensils to prevent him from infecting other learners.

“Ministry of Education should take responsibility in addressing TB, teachers should be sensitized, and develop a link between schools and hospitals," she said..

The Stop TB Partnership advocate urged the Ministry of Health to sensitise the public on TB prevention therapy that protects individuals from being infected.

The drugs, she said, should be available to anybody in need.

However, Kibuchi faulted the government’s for inconsistency in supply of BCG vaccines that prevent TB in children.

Recently, the country reported stock out of the vaccines administered to newborn immediately after birth.

“We are happy that BCG vaccines have been restored. Having a child leave hospital without TB vaccines, exposes them to TB, and we end up dealing with treatment. Government should ensure this (shortage) does not happen again,” she said.

Dr Caren Mburu, a representative from Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), said in Kenya, the fight against TB and HIV among children is a critical challenge that demands unwavering attention and concerted action.

“While we celebrate the remarkable progress made in reducing new HIV infections and improving access to treatment, the harsh reality is that thousands of Kenyan children and adolescents continue to grapple with the burden of this disease,” she said.

Data from the ministry shows that over 67,000 children are living with HIV/Aids, with approximately 4,500 new paediatric infections having occurred in 2022.

Mburu warned that TB, which is often exacerbated by presence of HIV, poses a formidable threat to children’s health.

Prevention of TB and HIV, she said, requires a quick response by prioritising comprehensive strategies that encompass education, access to quality healthcare services and community engagement.

“We can stem the tide of new infections and ensure early detection and treatment for those affected. This includes expanding access to key interventions such as prevention of mother to child transmission services, paediatric HIV testing and treatment, and TB screening and prevention for vulnerable children,” said Dr Mburu.

She called for concerted efforts to address pervasive stigma and discrimination that continue to shroud HIV and TB, hindering efforts to reach those most in need.

“Let us pledge to stand in solidarity, across all faiths and political affiliations, as champions for the rights and dignity of every child in Kenya. Together we can rewrite the narrative of HIV and TB, transforming it from one of despair to one of hope and resilience,” said Mburu.

Health Cabinet Secretary Susan Nakhumicha emphasised Kenya’s commitment to ending HIV/Aids as a public health threat, teenage pregnancies by 2030, and Gender-Based Violence (GBV), including sexual violence, by 2026.

Nakhumicha noted that the triple threats could hamper the realisation of the demographic dividend.

“These challenges present a complex web of vulnerabilities and profoundly impact health, population, and development, including education, economic opportunities, and the overall well-being of adolescent girls,” said the CS.

Last week, Kenya unveiled a comprehensive commitment plan aimed at eradicating the 'Triple Threat' of new HIV infections, Gender-Based Violence (GBV), and teenage pregnancy by the year 2027.

Related Topics


Trending Now


Popular this week