March 24 marks World TB Day, a day to build public awareness about tuberculosis and celebrate acheivements to eliminate the disease. TB kills roughly 1.7 million people each year, mostly in the middle- and low-income countries, and is a major obstacle to improving the health of many of the communities where PIH works.
PIH sites around the world held community events to commemorate World TB Day. Below, staff from Malawi, Lesotho, and Peru report from the field.
An update from Malawi
By Jonas Rigodon, PIH’s Malawi Country Director
On March 24, 2011, Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo—PIH’s sister organization in Malawi—and the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Neno partnered to celebrate World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, using the event as an opportunity to raise public awareness about TB.
The main venue was at Chiwale Secondary School, where thousands of people from everywhere in the district came to celebrate the event under the theme: “On the Move Against Tuberculosis: Innovation To Accelerate Action.” Our theme was also adopted nationwide by the government of Malawi.
Among the personalities presented at the event include the District Commissioner, District Health Officer and its District Health Management Team members, Traditional Authorities, other members from different government sectors—and of course PIH patients and staff.
We think it was mandatory to join the world in recognizing this day because tuberculosis still kills two millions people every year worldwide, and 9 million people are newly infected every year.
In Malawi roughly three thousand people die from TB each year. There were almost 25,000 new cases last year and almost half of them were HIV positive. We think this is not acceptable and as a social justice organization that promotes human rights, we think we should work hand-hand with local Ministry of health authorities to improve TB diagnosis, treatment and most importantly prevention.
Different activities took place on this day to spice up the event, including: speeches, traditional songs and dances, poetry readings, and drama. Each event was organized around the theme “On the move against TB.” A highlight was definitely the football tournament, which raised K100,000 (roughly $660 US). T-shits and other gifts were distributed.
By Archie Ayeh, PIH’s Lesotho Program Manager
Lesotho held its World TB Day events at the MDR-TB facility in Botshabello, Maseru.
It was marked by press conference by the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr. Mphu Ramatlapeng. There were a number of journalists presents.
In her keynote address, the minister mentioned the need to raise more awareness of TB and also stressed the need to improve TB services and medication. She also mentioned the fact that it was expensive to treat TB, especially MDR-TB. Journalists were then taken on tour of MDR-TB facility.
PIH has done much to fight TB in Lesotho, last year PIH-L diagnosed 658 cases of TB and over 450 cases of MDR-TB. Over half of the people diagnosed with TB were also found to be HIV positive.
Despite this work, TB notification is still high in Lesotho. In 2008, the country had 640 incident TB cases per 100,0000 people. Lesotho is rated 5 out of the 15 countries of the world with the highest per capita incidence and has a very high rate of TB/HIV co-infection. In fact, in 2009, the proportion of TB patients who tested positive for HIV nationally was 78 percent.
By Jonas Alonso Valdivia, SES communications team
On March 24, 2011, the Municipality of Metropolitan Lima and the Peruvian Ministry of Health carried out the “Breath Life. Together Against Tuberculosis” forum.
Presided over by Lima’s mayor and national health officials, most of the World Tuberculosis Day events were held at the capital’s city hall. A national event, mayors and representatives from various districts of Lima, as well as a variety of people associated with the fight against this disease, attended.
Socios En Salud (PIH’s sister organization in Peru), the NGO Pathfinder International, and the Center for Social Process organized the day’s events. Funding came from the Global Fund.