•TB is curable — about 85 per cent of people who develop TB can be successfully treated with a six-month drug regimen. It is also preventable.
• However, country unlikely to meet WHO main target to reduce TB deaths by 75% compared to 2015.
Kenya has reduced by 35 per cent of people dying from TB, compared to the deaths recorded in 2015, WHO says in a new analysis.
The country has also reached the target of reducing by 20 per cent new tuberculosis cases compared to those in 2015.
The targets are part of the World Health Organization’s End TB Strategy, which aims to end the disease by 2035.
The country is among the only seven countries in Africa that have made that progress. The others are Eswatini, Mozambique, South Sudan, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.
“The question is no longer about whether we can end TB, but how fast we must act to reduce the disease burden, save lives and maintain a high momentum towards a TB-free world,” WHO regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said.
In Kenya in 2022, the Ministry of Health reported 90,841 TB cases compared to 77,854 cases in 2021.
TB deaths slightly went up in 2021 due to a lack of diagnosis during the Covid-19 pandemic.
This situation was acknowledged by President William Ruto during World TB Day on Friday.
"The Covid-19 pandemic reversed progress made in the years up to 2019 and set global TB targets off track. The reductions in the reported number of people diagnosed with TB in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic suggest that the number of people with undiagnosed and untreated TB has grown," he said in a speech read by Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi.
"This has resulted in an increased number of TB deaths, community transmission of infection and numbers of people developing TB.”
TB is curable — about 85 per cent of people who develop TB can be successfully treated with a six-month drug regimen. It is also preventable.
In his speech, Mudavadi said TB is the fourth leading cause of death among infectious diseases in Kenya. The disease killed about 20,000 people in 2020.
He emphasised the need to develop a continuous approach to fighting the disease.
He said this can be achieved through partnerships, more funding toward TB programming, rapid adoption of innovations and adherence to the WHO guidelines.
"Expansion of TB diagnostic capacities and improved integration of TB services into other programmes by ensuring access to quality TB services for all should remain a key priority as the Ministry of Health continues to put in place mechanisms to curb the spread of TB,” he added.
Despite the progress, Kenya is unlikely to meet the WHO’s main target to reduce TB deaths by 75 per cent and cases by 50 per cent by 2025 compared with the 2015 levels.
The Strategy also aims to cut TB deaths by 90 per cent and cases by 80 per cent by 2030.
However, major barriers to ending TB persist, according to the WHO.
Underinvestment by governments in TB control programmes is a significant drawback to the fight against the disease.
For instance, the WHO said of the estimated $3.9 million required for the African region’s 2018-2021 TB response plan, only $957 million were mobilised each year for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
In September, a high-level meeting on TB will be held during the UN General Assembly bringing together heads of state to help ramp up action and accelerate TB control efforts.
“TB control efforts require concerted action by all: communities, governments, the private sector and international partners. Our region still suffers an unacceptably high TB toll. Without robust joint efforts, this preventable and treatable disease will remain a serious public health threat with costly impacts for individuals and societies,” Dr Moeti said.
(Edited by by by V. Graham)