OPINION EDITORIAL: The Union Zimbabwe Trust Statement on World TB Day 2024

OPINION EDITORIAL: The Union Zimbabwe Trust Statement on World TB Day 2024

“Yes, We Can End TB”

As we commemorate this important day in the global fight to end TB, I stand representing many voices of partners supporting the national TB response. As a country, while we have every reason to celebrate the milestone of being from the list of top 30 high burden countries for TB, we are mindful that we still rank among high burdened countries for TB-HIV and drug-resistant TB. This is a rude awakening that more still needs to be done to win the war. As partners, we note that in 2022, there were an estimated 33,000 new cases of TB in the country & only just over 18,000 were detected & linked to care, translating to close to 15,000 missing cases unaccounted for.

The theme for this year, “Yes! We Can End TB” beams a spotlight on our collective responsibility to step up the fight, if we are to meet one of the Sustainable Development Goals of ending TB by 2030. The theme brings to the fore, the need for more meaningful engagement of those affected by the disease, whose voices must be louder than ever, to ensure the interventions we promote are responsive to their needs.

As a country, the theme must trigger a sense of urgency on the need to scale up new tools & shorter treatment options. A deliberate focus to find TB in children deserves special mention, as our children remain on the fringes of national response efforts. It is estimated that in 2022, we missed 75% of TB cases among children less than 15 years.

While we applaud government for the bold policy on free treatment for TB, more needs to be done to eliminate all catastrophic costs throughout their treatment journey.

The Union Zimbabwe Trust acknowledges the generosity of our funding partners, who have remained consistent in their commitment. The Kunda-Nqob’iTB programme deserves special mention. This is a 5-year Cooperative Agreement to the tune of $US15 million between the United States Agency for International Development & the UZT, which has contributed to the detection >12,000 TB cases over the last four years, across eight priority districts.

Through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, as sub-recipient, UZT was instrumental in training provincial teams, in TB case finding, using mobile X-ray trucks. Over the last 3 years close to 50,000 hard to reach communities were reached and screened for TB.

Other funding partners include the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the STOP Partnership, whose support has strengthened implementation of TB Preventive therapy and scaled up shorter treatment for Drug resistant TB. Lastly, this year’s theme must convey a sense of optimism, that getting back-on-track is possible. It is a call to action to push forward the TB elimination agenda, if we are to deliver on our commitment to the UN High-Level targets for TB as a country. As partners in the response, we pledge our commitment to do our part in supporting government & believe we can end TB, as we join hands in this fight.