Ghana on March 24, joined the international community to commemorate this year's World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, with stakeholders urging the government to commit more funds into a national programme to end the disease.
This is because the nation losses about 15,000 people each year to TB, in spite of the fact that the disease is curable and its treatment is free.
The mortality rate has been attributed to the high level of undiagnosed cases of the infectious disease.
World TB Day is commemorated on March 24, every year to raise public awareness of the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, while efforts are made to end the global epidemic.
This year’s commemoration was on the theme: “Invest to end TB, save lives”.
The Minister of Health, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, urged the people, particularly those who experienced regular coughs, to get tested.
He said the government had demonstrated commitment to eradicate the disease and mentioned the procurement of an equipment known as GeneXpert Cartridges to test all suspected TB cases.
The minister also said a multi-drug resistance (MDR) facility under construction to facilitate the ‘End TB’ agenda in the country would be equipped.
“The government will further accelerate the TB case detection phase two project by equipping 150 district hospitals with digital X-ray and artificial intelligence for TB diagnosis.
“All these investments are geared towards ending TB, which is still a public health threat and pandemic in the country," he added.
The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, described the theme for the commemoration as appropriate because it “underscores the need for both current and future financial security to bolster our fight to end TB by 2030”.
“To achieve this, we will need to accelerate both TB preventive and curative services. This, obviously, will entail investing in our staff to maximise access to essential services, including TB and COVID-19 diagnostics, to find and treat all,” he said.
According to Dr Kuma-Aboagye, the GHS had signed performance contracts with its regional directors to roll out strategic interventions to find missing TB cases nationwide and manage the patients.
“The good news is that TB is curable, so anyone with a cough, which is the cardinal symptom of TB, should get tested for the disease. If you are in close contact with someone with TB, or a person living with HIV/AIDS, get tested for TB and demand treatment,” he said.
The Country Representative of the World Health Organisation, Dr Francis Kasolo, said Ghana could learn from other African peers, such South Africa, which had steadily increased domestic funding for TB.
“In 2020, South Africa provided 81 per cent of domestic funding to support TB activities. Zambia has increased its domestic funding seven-fold since 2015.
“Increased funding from domestic sources and international donors is urgently needed if we are to counteract a reversal of the significant gains made against TB in the past decades,” he added.
At the current rate of progress, Dr Kasolo said, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal target of ending the TB epidemic by 2030 might not be achieved.
For his part, the National TB Control Programme Manager, Dr Yaw Aduse-Poku, said challenges, such as the absence of the GeneXpert for diagnosis in 50 per cent of the 260 districts in the country, must be resolved.
“We have a funding gap of $20 million per year. However, with adequate investment, we can end TB in the country,” he said.