Childhood TB Roadmap: Investing in the Future of Humanity

Alice Tembe, Swaziland
The Global Childhood TB Roadmap was released on the 1st October 2013 in Washington DC, calling for doubled efforts in research, mainstreaming and commitment to combating TB deaths among children under the age of 15 years.  It is notable that with the growing burden of the disease coupled with HIV-AIDS, the focus to find a cure, a prophylaxis and better management drugs could have overcome the need to address children’s needs.

The overall response programme to TB did suffer parallel programming to the overall health response system, this is an obstacle that José Luis Castro, Interim Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) pointed to when he said, "If we can shift TB diagnosis and treatment out of specialized programmes and into other existing maternal and child health activities, we automatically gain reach and scale,”.

The "Roadmap for Childhood TB: Toward Zero Deaths" recommends ten actions to be taken at national and global levels including the following,

1. Include the needs of children and adolescents in research, policy development and clinical practices.
2. Collect and report better data, including preventive measures.
3. Develop training and reference materials on childhood TB for health-care workers.
4. Foster local expertise and leadership among child-health workers at all levels of the health-care system.
5. Use critical intervention strategies, such as intensive case finding, contact tracing and preventive therapy; implement policies enabling early diagnosis; and ensure there is an uninterrupted supply of high-quality anti-TB medicines for children.
6. Engage key stakeholders, and establish effective communication and collaboration between the health-care sector and other sectors that address the social determinants of health and access to care.
7. Develop integrated family- and community-centered strategies to provide comprehensive and effective services at the community level.
8. Address research gaps in the following areas: epidemiology, fundamental research, the development of new tools (such as diagnostics, medicines and vaccines); and address gaps in operational research and research looking at health systems and services.
9. Close all funding gaps for childhood TB at the national and global levels.
10. Form coalitions and partnerships to study and evaluate the best strategies for preventing and managing childhood TB, and for improving tools used for diagnosis and treatment

Dr. Samsom Haumba, Country Director of University Research Co. (URC) in the Kingdom of Swaziland, expressed that his country has already taken critical steps towards integration of the Childhood TB Roadmap through the National TB Control Program (NTCP). Among other things, the NTCP leadership of Swaziland having attended the briefing on the roadmap, a local taskforce has been established, led by Ms. Sisi Dube. This team has already conducted baseline surveys on routinely collected data; established a work plan; initiated capacity building for doctors and nurses on childhood TB priorities in the country; and lobbying for pediatric friendly treatment has begun. Ms. Siphiwe Ngwenya, the NTCP Regional Coordinator also commented that partnerships have been established with development partners including the Baylor Clinic-Center for Excellence to engage in research on pediatric diagnostics on TB.

It is therefore commendable that, "If a small child can summon the bravery to complete a six-month TB treatment, the global community must be similarly brave in its ambitions to defeat the epidemic," said Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. The Kingdom of Swaziland is joining forces with the world to protect the future of humanity.

Alice Tembe, Swaziland
Citizen News Service - CNS
October 2013