On 24th March, the world marked World Tuberculosis Day to raise public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis and efforts to eliminate the disease. TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers. Each day, over 4100 people lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.
This year, the Ministry of Health (MoH), World Health Organisation (WHO), Medical Research Council (MRC) and other key partners joined the international communities to commemorate World TB Day 2022. The theme of World TB Day 2022 was “Invest to End TB. Save Lives” – a slogan that conveys the urgent need to invest resources in order to ramp up the fight against TB and achieve the commitments made by the global community to end this infectious disease.
As part of events marking this very important day, a press briefing was organised at the National TB/Leprosy Office of the Ministry of Health to raise public awareness and understanding of one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, along with the devastating social and economic burden of this disease.
Speaking at the ceremony, the WHO Representative, Dr Desta Tiruneh, emphasised the need for increased funding for TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment services that continues to fall far short of estimated global needs, and the United Nations global target. Highlighting the 2018 UN High-Level Meeting on TB, where world leaders agreed to mobilise US$13 billion per year to finance TB prevention and treatment by 2022 and promised another US$2 billion per year for TB research in the face of growing concerns around drug-resistant TB, Dr Tiruneh added that more must be done if the global community wanted to achieve this target. He also stressed the need closer collaboration with our beneficiary communities, leveraging their expert local knowledge to tailor response efforts for maximum impact. He noted that to achieve the SDG 2030 target we must collectively “invest to end TB, and save lives”.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister for Health, the Deputy Director Dr Momodou Nyassi underscored that TB is curable, and treatment is provided free of charge, irrespective of nationality in The Gambia. In thanking the government partners, he noted that through successful collaboration between government agencies and local/international partners, the anti-TB drugs have never been out of stock in the country. In addition to TB treatment, the ministry also provides nutritional support to all drug-resistant TB patients and transport refund to all bacteriologically positive pulmonary TB patients.
Dr Nyassi went on to say that, “despite challenges in getting adequate resources especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health has over the years made progress in the fight against TB in The Gambia.”
He thanked all health care workers, Global Fund, WHO, MRC, the civil society, and the private sector for their persistent support in the fight against TB in The Gambia.
Sensitisation activities will continue on community radios regionally in the weeks ahead.