PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says Tuberculosis (TB) still remains a public health problem in Zambia which requires a multi-sectoral approach to be combated President Hichilema said in a speech read on his behalf by Health Minister Sylvia Masebo during the World TB Day in Lusaka yesterday that the pandemic was one of the primary causes of illness and death.
The diseases affected 10.6 million people globally in 2021, resulting in 1.6 million deaths. “Zambia is among the 30 countries with a high burden of TB, with as many as 60,000 people falling ill and over 2,000 dying from TB each year. Deaths are largely often due to delays in seeking healthcare,” he said.
Mr Hichilema said the figures were a reminder of the importance of continued efforts to stem the disease and that because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, global efforts to eliminate TB had either slowed down, stalled or regressed.
He said despite several setbacks, Zambia stood out as a country that had achieved remarkable success in meeting key TB targets, such as identification and treatment.
“This number has risen from 36,000 in 2019 to over 50,000 in 2022 and over the past five years, more than 90 per cent of TB patients have been cured. Similarly, 90 per cent of people living with HIV have already received TB preventive treatment, which safeguards them from developing TB,” he said.
He said TB deaths had significantly declined from 115 per 100,000 people in 2015 to 40 per 100,000 in 2021, which was encouraging towards efforts to end TB by 2030.
President Hichilema said that Zambia had accomplished three out of the five United Nations UN High-Level Meeting targets, detection and treatment of drug- sensitive TB detection and treatment of children with TB and providing TB preventive treatment to people living with HIV.
He said the achievements demonstrated the strength and resilience of the health system had put in place through the ministry of Health, which had embraced innovative technologies for TB control.
Although Zambia had made significant strides in recent years, there was still more that required the country’s attention to accelerate TB response and achieve the elimination goal of 2030.
“I urge the ministry of Health to collaborate closely with the Vice- President’s Office to expedite the finalisation and implementation of the multi-sectoral accountability framework for TB that will guide how other line ministries, departments, and agencies can contribute to the elimination of TB in Zambia,” President Hichilema said.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Deputy Mission Director Robinson Sharma said Zambia was doing well on programmes aimed at addressing TB and other health issues.
Mr Sharma said the United States was particularly impressed with the way Zambia was addressing TB among other diseases