Drought in Zimbabwe leads to increase in TB-related deaths – AlertNet
More people from Matabeleland are dying from tuberculosis (TB) related illnesses than in any other area of Zimbabwe, a situation feared to be linked to the drought currently afflicting the southern region.
According to latest statistics from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, up to 18% of TB patients in Matabeleland North province, and 14% in Matabeleland South province, die while on TB treatment.
Matabeleland region is home to the South Africa and Botswana borders and prone to droughts. The region has received virtually no rain this year, leaving people in rural areas vulnerable to hunger.
TB and HIV patients on medication in those provinces are the worst affected as their medication requires that they be well fed. As they are reportedly starving, they are being forced to take medication on empty stomachs.
Additionally, studies have shown that in the body’s attempt to fight infection energy expenditure is increased thereby increasing energy needs in TB patients.
Charles Sandy, the national TB programme manager, is concerned: “We need to identify what the reasons are behind the deaths. We are speculating that perhaps it’s cross border health issues because of the mobility of the population in the southern region,” he said.
He further speculated that the high death rates could also be related to multi-drug resistant TB, attributable to the fact that there was not adequate attention to TB- HIV integration in that part of the country.
TB is among the top ten diseases of public health importance in Zimbabwe and remains the leading cause of deaths among people living with HIV and AIDS. The country is ranked number 17 among the 22 TB high burden countries of the world.
However last year, TB cases in the country dropped to 40,600 from 47,000 recorded in 2010.
The World Health Organisation reports that nearly 39 million people around the world suffer from TB annually while around 1.4 million of them die of the communicable disease related illnesses worldwide.
Addressing residents in Bulawayo, the Matabeleland capital, Henry Madzorera, the Health and Child Welfare Minister, said that the government was in the process of investigating the causes of the high death rates due to TB-related illnesses in this part of the country. He said that more than 10% was unacceptable.