World TB Day Commemoration in Swaziland

Business sector marching on TB Day
Alice M Tembe, Swaziland
The Kingdom of Swaziland joined the world to commemorate the Tuberculosis Day on the 27th of March 2013 in Manzini. The event was preceded by a High Level meeting on the 22nd -23rd March 2013 at the Happy Valley Hotel in Ezulwini, where influential delegates gathered for the first time in one place to dialogue on the Tuberculosis matter, an initiative led by the Honorable Minister of Health, Mr. Benedict Xaba in collaboration with the South African Minister of Health Mr. Aaron Motsoaledi.

Some of the delegates in attendance were the Stop TB Executive Secretary, Dr. Lucica Dittu who noted the Swaziland Meeting Declaration Statement; ‘to significantly cut TB/HIV related death over the next 1000 days and reach the 2015 goals’.  The UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe also expressed that 1000 HIV positive people die every day of TB in the African continent.

World TB Day, falling on March 24th each year, is designed to build public awareness that tuberculosis today remains an epidemic in much of the world, causing the deaths of nearly one-and-a-half million people each year, mostly in developing countries. It commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus. At the time of Koch's announcement in Berlin, TB was raging through Europe and the Americas, causing the death of one out of every seven people. Koch's discovery opened the way towards diagnosing and curing TB.

This year the Swaziland Business Coalition on HIV-AIDS (SWABCHA) partnered with the National TB Control Program to commemorate this day together with partners and member companies all over the country for the first time. With over 400 participants, the event began with a march from the Jubilee Park in Manzini to the Mavuso Trade Centre where the event was held. The national theme for the day was “Stopping TB in my lifetime”. A statement made to re-commit everyone’s responsibility towards the TB response. Of note in the crowd, was the presence of ex-miners, previously employed in the neighboring South African mines. The ex-miners carry a high burden of TB and HIV yet were falling through the cracks between the national responses in Swaziland and South Africa.

The day was characterized by delegation visits to partners information stall, music and drama entertainment, TB Quiz and prices and speeches from the Chairperson of CCM, Rev Senzo Hlatshwayo, Mr. Peter Ehrenkranz the  Technical Advisor for CDC/PEPFAR-Swaziland and the Honorable Minister of Health, Mr. Benedict Xaba.  An emotional life testimony was shared by a TB survivor, an elderly woman who noted that she is a widow with four grandchildren whose parents passed on. She expressed her gratitude to the Ministry of health and development partners rolling out the DOTS program saying, even when she was tired and given up on her life due the challenges of the illness, side effects of the medication and the lack of consistent food, she was motivated by the unwavering and persistent visits by outreach health care workers who followed up defaulting patients at their home, “I am back now, healthy and providing for my family, DOTS program saved my life”.

Alice M Tembe, Swaziland
Citizen News Service - CNS
April 2013 

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