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Ministry launches TB national dialogue


Minister of Health Dr ’Molotsi Monyamane
Minister of Health Dr ’Molotsi Monyamane

Limpho Sello

THE Ministry of Health, in conjunction with the Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organisations (LCN), launched the National Community Dialogue on Wednesday to stem the high prevalence of tuberculosis (TB) in the country.

As Lesotho commemorated World Tuberculosis Day on 24 March, TB prevalence in the country was noted to be second only to Swaziland globally after leaping from 630 to 916 in every 100 000 people being infected.

World TB Day commemorations are meant to build public awareness about the epidemic and highlight efforts towards eliminating the disease. The 24th of March is also the date, in 1882, when German physicist Robert Koch announced his discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes TB, marking a turning point in diagnosing and curing the disease.

In his keynote address, Health Minister Molotsi Monyamane said: “Lesotho subscribes to global initiatives to eliminate TB as a public health problem within the following targets: The World Health Assembly and The Stop TB Partnership aim to detect 70 percent of the estimated incidence of sputum smear positive TB and to cure at least 85 percent of newly-detected cases of sputum smear-positive TB;

“Under the sixth Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), target eight thereof addresses HIV/AIDS, malaria and other communicable diseases. The aim is to have halted malaria and other communicable diseases by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases;

“Lastly the End TB strategy takes us beyond the 2015 MDGs and urges us to end TB by 2035 by the addressing key components of the three pillar strategy.”

He added in line with the theme for this year’s commemorations ‘Reach, Treat, Cure Everyone’, affected people and communities in which they live, civil society organisations (CSO), healthcare-providers and other partners needed to discuss, plan and collaborate to bridge the national gaps in detecting TB cases.

According to Dr Monyamane, the National Community Dialogue is therefore meant to bring TB high on the agenda, share facts about the disease and what communities need to do to support the Health ministry in case detection, case holding care and support of confirmed TB patients.

“The ministry recognises the critical role played by CSO majorly in the area of HIV, hence the launch of community dialogues through joint facilitation of Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organization (LCN) and the Ministry of Health as this has the potential to win the battle against the two diseases (HIV and TB),” he said.

“Furthermore, our desired engagement will facilitate the much needed collective planning and implementation pursuant to the Speech from the Throne during the opening of the ninth parliament, which stated that His Majesty’s government will go out of its comfort zone to address this challenge.”

The minister called for more concerted efforts to decentralise TB/HIV services in communities and to stem the prevalence of the diseases in the mining sector for current and former mine workers, correctional institutions, factories, the military and police detention centres.

LCN Health and Social Development Commission Coordinator ‘Mamathule Makhotla also highlighted the need to strengthen partnerships between CSOs and government in the implementation of community-based TB activities.

She further noted that the role of CSOs to date had been to raise awareness about TB among the groups most affected, helping to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease and ensuring the availability of services in remote areas.

“There is need for community dialogues with different groups such as factory workers and ex-mineworkers on TB control and management as well as continued collaboration with key players such as political leadership on TB and HIV issues,” Ms Makhotla said.

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