Uganda joined the rest of the world on 24th March 2023 to commemorate World TB Day under the theme: Yes! We can End TB. The country also commemorated the World Leprosy Day under the theme: “United for Dignity.” This year’s national event took place at Boma grounds in Butaleja District.
Government was represented by the third Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Rukia Nakadama and the State Minister for Health in charge of General duties, Hon. Hanifa Kawooya among other officials. The Development Partners present at the event included, among others, the USAID Uganda Mission Director, Richard Nelson.
Recent records at the Ministry of Health revealed that TB claims 30 lives on a daily basis. Speaking earlier this month, the Director General Health Services, Dr Henry Mwebesa, said new TB cases had increased from about 86,000 people in 2017 to more than 90,000 in 2022.
“TB is still a big problem. Uganda is one of the top 30 countries in the world with a high number of TB cases. We register over 90,000 cases every year and not all cases come out to seek treatment. There are those we do not find and give treatment despite availability of free TB treatment in the country,” he said.
The National TB and Leprosy Programme Manager, Dr Stavia Turyahebwa said there was also a gradual increase in the number of Leprosy cases reported every year from 121 in 2017 to 581 in 2022.
“Leprosy is found in all regions of Uganda but mainly in West Nile, Bunyoro, Lango and Acholi. Some of these regions host refugees from countries like South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which still have high cases of the disease,” she said.
Dr Mwebesa also revealed that the ministry, with support from the Global Fund, was in the process of procuring 21 modern digital X-ray machines to ease TB screening in general hospitals across the county.
According to the Ministry of Health, a TB patient in a given community can infect 15 other people every year.
Preventive measures against TB include immunizing children at birth against TB, testing and seeking treatment as soon as a patient presents signs and symptoms, avoiding overcrowded places, proper ventilation and wearing masks. Adhering to a six-month TB treatment plan also reduces cases of drug resistance among patients and minimises the risk of transmission.
As part of the national event, a range of activities were planned by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with Development Partners, the host District and communities. Some of the planned activities included: TB/Leprosy awareness through radio, TV talk shows, spot messages and various social media platforms plus using the Health Care Workers to sensitize the community. Hotspot
screening, testing and treatment initiation was conducted using the mobile clinic vans. Community dialogue and sensitization meetings including exhibitions on innovations during the commemoration event were also conducted. Government and its partners are working to eliminate TB and Leprosy by 2030.