By Ndey Sowe
The Ministry of Health and relevant stakeholder on Wednesday March 27th 2019, commemorated World Tuberculosis Day, an annual event commemorated every March 24th.
The day is annually commemorated to raise public awareness on TB and to reaffirm national and international commitments to the diseases response and eventual eradication. The day is also set to remind people of the global health threats presented by the disease and to recognize the collective efforts of countries and partners in the fight against Tuberculosis.
In a commemoration program held at the Governor’s office in Brikama in the West Coast Region, on the theme: “It Is Time”. TB Is Curable. Seek Early Diagnosis and Prompt Treatment’’, Dawda Ceesay permanent secretary at the Ministry of Health who deputized for his Minister, said TB remains a disease of great public health concern; that TB is the leading cause of death from single infectious agents, ranking above HIV/AIDS and malaria; that an estimate of 10 million people fall ill with TB annually.
Ceesay said WHO’s estimates talk about 1.7 billion people or 23% of the world’s population, are infected with TB or are at risk of developing the disease during their lifetime; that this year’s world TB day theme is versatile and connotes a lot.
“The Ministry of Health has expanded diagnostic and treatment facilities countrywide which resulted in improved access to TB services,” he said; that the number of TB diagnosed and notified has decreased from 2,551 cases in 2015 to 2,394 cases in 2018; that over 85% of notified TB patients have been successfully treated. “In the Gambia, diagnosis and treatment of TB is provided free of charge to all, irrespective of nationality,” he concludes.
Bakary Sanyang, the Governor West Coast Region (WCR) on his part, said WHO has estimated that 2 billion of the world population are infected; that he is concerned that over 70% treated TB cases are found within the greater Banjul area, including the West Coast Region (WCR).
“This theme for the program is very fitting,’’ he said; that it is time for all Gambians to wake up and fight this killer disease, and urged all those affected to know their status and seek early medical attention.
Dr. Dasta A. Tiruneh, the WHO country representative said each year, the day is designated to build public awareness and to remind ourselves that TB continues to remain an epidemic in most parts of the world, with much more needed to prevent, control, and eventually eliminate it.
“TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer. Each day, nearly 4,500 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30, 000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease,” he stated; that in the Gambia, the estimated incidence of TB in 2017 was 3.7/1,000 population; that current rates are high at 90% which he said exceeds WHO target of least 85%.
He said TB notification rates have improved over the years, but that there are still some significant undetected TB cases in the country. Tiruneh continued that this coupled with increased cases of MRC-TB, is a cause of concern.
Professor Manton Antonio, a representative of Medical Research Center (MRC) and Luo Wonjun, Economic and Commercial Consular at the Chinese Embassy, also reiterated similar statements made by the earlier speakers and calls for infected persons to go for early diagnosis and treatments.