Namibia improved but still struggles controlling TB

30 Mar 2015 10:00am
KEETMANSHOOP, 30 MAR (NAMPA) – Despite great strides in controlling tuberculosis (TB), Namibia remains one of the 10 countries most affected by the communicable disease worldwide.
In 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) rated Namibia fourth after Swaziland, South Africa and Sierra Leone.
Keetmanshoop was this year chosen to host World TB Day on Friday, as the Karas Region has one of the highest prevalence rates of TB in the country. The Hardap and Erongo regions complete the top three worst affected areas in Namibia.
Speaking at the awareness-raising event, Dr Farai Mavhunga, Chief Medical Officer of the National TB and Leprosy Programme, said this is largely due to socio-economic factors such as poverty and structural arrangements. The corrugated iron shacks at informal settlements and mine hostels are considered areas where risks of exposure are higher.
Furthermore, Mavhunga said, TB continues to pose a risk to people in crowded settings such as barracks, jails and holding cells. Health workers, prison inmates, police officers and prison wardens are especially vulnerable to the deadly disease.
He said that a week ago, the Ministry of Health and Social Services and the Ministry of Safety and Security embarked upon a countrywide TB screening process in prisons and holding cells to effectively detect and treat new TB cases.
The results from this effort will also serve as a baseline survey to assist in developing a more effective TB control strategy.
Last year, 9 882 patients were diagnosed with TB countrywide, down from 10 610 cases in 2013. A total of 87 per cent of new patients were successfully treated in 2013.
Although infection rates have been on the decline over the last 10 years, adherence to treatment among some patients are hampered by excessive alcohol use or poor nutrition.
Mavhunga said that generally speaking, the elimination of TB lies in improved socio-economic conditions and structural improvements, reduced smoking and drinking, food security, and better management of other chronic diseases such as diabetes and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that compromise immune systems.