Students and Youth Working on reproductive Health Action Team (SAYWHAT) joins the world in commemorating World TB Day. This year’s edition is celebrated under the theme: Invest to End TB. Save lives. This theme conveys the urgent need to invest time and resources towards scaling up the fight against TB. This also calls for more time to raise awareness on TB to save young people’s lives.
International health agencies report that TB claims over 4000 lives each day worldwide with nearly 30 000 people falling sick. In 2020, an estimated 1,5 million people died from TB. Thus, TB remains one of the oldest and deadliest infectious killers globally at least according to the Pan American Health Organisation.
Zimbabwe is not spared from TB deaths too. World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 4000 African lives are lost to TB every year. These statistics are very disturbing.
For years, TB had been perceived as a disease that attacks adults and people with old age. However, recent studies have shown that young people are equally affected by TB. WHO in Zimbabwe (2020) acknowledges that TB is also common among children and young people. It is therefore high time development partners adopt a comprehensive response to incorporate young people in the fight against TB. SAYWHAT has also observed that the majority of higher learning institutions do not have TB screening services for students and therefore appeals to the government of Zimbabwe and development agencies to commit resources to higher learning institutions’ health facilities to fight TB.
TB screening services must be made available at higher learning institutions so that students enjoy their right to access quality health care. The availability of TB screening services at higher learning institutions will help in diagnosing the disease and the initiation of appropriate treatment which gives the patient high chances of beating TB.
Some of our young people who enroll at universities and colleges come from remote rural areas where they may not have TB screening services. Hence, there is need to make TB screening services available at campuses.
Vision 2030 is attainable with a healthy generation of young people and this should start with the provision of TB screening services at colleges. Healthy people are key to the development of any country.
As a signatory to the 2001 Abuja declaration, Zimbabwe needs to live up to its pledge by committing at least 15 percent of the national budget each year towards the health sector. This will help the health sector to source the equipment needed for TB screening services.
Local clinics need to be equipped with medical equipment required to screen TB and other diseases like cancer for our young people who are not necessarily at universities or colleges.
SAYWHAT understands the correlation between TB and HIV and implores the government of Zimbabwe and development partners to urgently come together and make available TB screening services.
The advent of Covid-19 has had a bearing on people’s access to TB services with statistics showing that about 5,8 million people accessed TB care services in 2020 compared to 7 million people who accessed the same services in 2019.
Successive lockdowns effected to curb the spread of Covid-19 affected young people’s access to health services, situations that lead to delays in TB diagnosis and treatment. SAYWHAT is therefore calling for an urgent collective effort from all concerned development partners and the government of Zimbabwe to save the lives of our young people from TB.