High level TB conference kicks off in Nairobi


NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 28 –A high level conference that seeks to address bottlenecks in TB control among seven high impact countries in Africa kicked off in Nairobi on Tuesday. The two day meeting brought together Permanent Secretaries and TB managers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe and leaders from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Fund.

The seven countries are reported to jointly contribute 650,000 TB cases every year. The whole of Sub Saharan Africa region contributes 25 percent of the global TB burden, which translates to 13 percent of the world’s population. The disproportionate burden calls for high impact interventions in the fight against the killer disease.

The participating countries drew comparisons on measures they have undertaken to meet the global and national End TB targets and singled out Kenya as the only country present that has met its WHO targets on TB case detection and cure rate.

Kenya is reported to have successfully treated one million TB patients out of 1.2 million Kenyans who have been diagnosed with the highly contagious killer disease over the last 10 years.

However, despite the commendable progress, Health Principal Secretary Dr. Nicholas Muraguri pointed out that there is still room for further improvement. He revealed that Kenya together with Ethiopia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe were among 14 countries globally that remain on all three high TB burden country lists for 2016-2020 for TB, Multi Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) and TB/HIV.

“We are the only ones here who have met our WHO targets compared to the other countries present and we are A-rated in terms of programme performance by the Global Fund. But we need to learn how to expand community programmes. Tanzania is doing better than us. We also need to learn how to engage the private sector because countries like Zambia have done much better than us,” he said.

Senior Disease Coordinator for TB for the Global Fund, Geneva Office, Dr.Eliud Wandwalo urged countries to collect data that would guide their TB control interventions. He pointed out that although some countries have set targets for the TB fight, without the support of sufficient data it is difficult to increase the capacity of national TB programmes. He further commended Kenya for taking the lead as far as procuring TB drugs was concerned.

Kenya spends about KSh2.5 billion every year providing free TB diagnosis and treatment services. In 2015, 82,000 people in Kenya were treated for TB together with 450 others who were treated for drug resistant TB. Half a million Kenyans have been placed on TB preventive therapy.

Kenya has also expanded access to GeneXpert with about 200,000 people tested using Gene Xpert  in 2016 up from under 20,000 in 2014. More than 1,200 MDR-TB patients have been diagnosed and placed on treatment.

Head of the National TB, Leprosy and Lung Disease Programme Dr.Enos Masini reiterated that data will help to address low-absorption of Global Funds grants and improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency in the implementation of respective programs.

The conference is part of a series of workshops that are being proposed across Global Fund regions within the High Impact-Africa II countries.