Gambia exceeds WHO target on TB


Speaking during the release of the report on research and survey findings dubbed ‘The Gambia Survey of Tuberculosis Prevalence (Gamstep), Implication for the TB Programme and Future TB Control Efforts in The Gambia,’ Dr Omar Sey said: “In 1985, The Gambia was among the first countries in the world to use direct observed treatment short course to treat tuberculosis.  The used of direct observed treatment short course (DOTS) to treat TB is being used countrywide since 1985 to date and  the number of diagnosis and treatment centres has increased from 11 in 2005 to 36 in 2013;  the number of patients who are treated and get cured is 88% which exceeded the WHO target of at least 85%.” 

The survey was commissioned and carried out by the Medical Research Council, The Gambia Unit (MRC) on behalf of the Ministry of Health and the National Leprosy and TB Control Programme. Therefore, the health minister said the war against TB in The Gambia is winnable if the trend is sustained. 

“In 2006,” Dr Sey explained, “the National TB and Leprosy Control Programme of the Health Ministry introduced Fixed Dose Combination (FDC) which shortened TB treatment from 8 months to 6 months. The introduction FDC and patient-centered TB treatment have improved significantly the TB treatment outcome, including cure rate and reduction of unfavourable treatment outcome (defaulter rate and death).”


He said the government of The Gambia under President Jammeh continued to provide free treatment to TB patients irrespective of nationality. He said the aim of the survey is to find out the real magnitude of the TB burden in The Gambia, adding that for the first time since independence and since WHO conducted surveys in the 1950s, “we now know the true burden of TB by measurement and not through the usual estimates generated from mathematical models as is the case with low and multiple income countries”.

He announced that according to information from the result of the survey, the overall national prevalence of all forms of TB in the Gambia is 128 per 100.000 people, which is 3.8 times lower than the 490 per 110,000 estimate in the 2013 global TB report.

However, despite the good results of the survey, Dr Sey said the results showed that TB is still a major public health problem in The Gambia.

 Speaking earlier on, the unit director of MRC, Prof Umberto D’ Alessandro said: “The successful completion of first nationwide Gambian survey of TB prevalence called Gamstep, is one of the numerous signs of the extremely good collaborative relationship between MRC and the government of The Gambia, more especially the Ministry of Health, the National Leprosy and TB Programme and other partners.” 

Dr Sharmila Jah of WHO, Banjul office said “since WHO’s declaration of TB as a global public health emergency in 1993, there has been accelerated global expansion of TB care and control. This has resulted in the successful achievement of Target 8 of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6 to have halted and begun to reverse the incidence of TB by 2015.”


By Sainey MK Marenah