TB drug resistance pervasive: Operation Hlasela lefuba on



MASERU – While Lesotho is faced with high burden of TB ranking it the highest in the world at incidence of 614 per 100,000 population, the county is currently struggling to identify TB cases in communities. Ministry of Health TB and Leprosy Manager, Dr Llang Maama, in an interview with Public Eye this week said, according to these high rates, Lesotho is supposed to at least identify 14 000 TB patients in a year. However, it has only been identifying 32 percent of that number since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a result the ministry’s performance with regards to addressing TB stood at 51 percent.

She said while everyone is vulnerable to TB and it can be contacted anywhere, miners and ex-miners are among the groups that are hardest hit by TB and contribute the most to the high TB burden in the country. “TB affects miners and ex-miners severely due to their exposure to mine dust. As a result, they contribute to the high burden of TB among men at 814 per 100,000 people.

“TB can be contacted anywhere by anyone. It becomes a problem among miners and ex-miners who are at the same time exposed to silica dust resulting in them contracting silicosis, which is an occupational lung disease,” Maama said. She observed that drug resistant TB is common in Lesotho’s districts with each of the 10 districts treating at least 10 drug resistant TB patients at a given time.

 “We observe 3.8 percent of our Multidrug Resistant (MDR) TB patients who are new, which says that there is a lot of community transmission, whereas 7.8 percent are retreatment cases and resultant from poor adherence to their initial TB treatment,” she said. Maama said while the country has the capacity to treat both drug susceptible and drug resistant TB in full capacity, there is a huge need to find all TB suspects and put on treatment those who are confirmed to have TB, while strengthening education of communities on TB so that they timely recognise TB symptoms and come for care.

“All forms of TB are a challenge, and it all starts with finding all TB patients and suspects in the communities. We are faced with that huge gap. “Finding the TB is the only solution we have to reducing the TB burden of our country. We also need patients to seek care early so that they do not have to die unnecessarily since TB is curable. “We need confirmed TB patients to adhere to treatment and avoid disappearing from care without our knowledge,” she said.

In an effort to improve health service delivery, minister of finance and development planning, Dr Rets’elisitsoe Matlanyane, while delivering the budget speech on Monday this week said the government is continuing on its mission to provide efficient health care systems by improving access to basic primary healthcare services. She stated that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, communicable and non-communicable diseases had been neglected, therefore, the government will take corrective measures to fight and treat these diseases.

“Government has joined a global move to find all missing TB patients and treating them successfully. Operation “Hlasela lefuba” has been launched and is ongoing,” she said.  The WHO Global Tuberculosis Programme works towards the goal of a world free of TB, with zero deaths, disease and suffering due to the disease. The team’s mission is to lead and guide the global effort to end the TB epidemic through universal access to people-centred prevention and care, multi-sectoral action and innovation. Operation “Hlasela lefuba” is the ministry’s community level campaign where ministry of health’s officials embark on door-to-door TB screening across the country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *