It was a sunny afternoon when hundreds of youths converged at Centre de Jeune Kimisagara in Kigali for a campaign against tuberculosis (TB).
The event featured dancing, skating, football and acrobatics in which participants were awarded various prizes and trophies.
Hundreds of youths from the three selected districts of the City of Kigali – Gasabo, Kicukiro and Nyarugenge – attended the awareness campaign.
This sounded a good cause for Josephine Kamikazi and Claude Kwizera, both residents of Nyarugenge, who looked excited about their involvement in a campaign to save lives.
“Our desire is to create awareness, to make the public understand ways through which TB can be transmitted,” said Kamikazi.
“People should avoid, tobacco consumption and sharing of drinking straws.”
The event, last Friday, aimed at increasing public awareness on TB diagnosis, treatment and prevention. It was organised as part of World Tuberculosis Day, marked annually on March 24.
Under the theme, “Unite to end TB” the organisers worked closely with the National Youth Council (NYC), to mobilise youths in Nyarugenge, Gasabo and Kicukiro districts to generate an effective movement in fight against TB.
According to ministry of Health, the fight against TB in Rwanda has been successful over the years, seeing the trend of its cases decline from 7,230 to 5,763 TB from 2011 to 2016, respectively.
Tobacco consumption is common among young people, with youth involvement, we can sustain such success in the fight against TB, said Kamikazi.
Kwizera said he would use every chance to warn the public in his Biryogo area, (Nyamirambo Sector) about tobacco and alcohol consumption, some of the things that increase vulnerability to TB, and also ensure no patient is left behind as far as treatment is concerned.
With effective diagnosis and treatment, the disease can be stamped out in Rwanda, he added.
The media was also enlisted in ensuring that there is change in the community by encouraging those who have the disease to come out and seek treatment.
The media was also urged to ensure that stigma associated with the disease is addressed in efforts to spread the message that even though the disease can be very debilitating, it is curable.
Alida Gloria Irakoze, representative of National Youth Council in Kicukiro, said mobilisation would be an effective way of public awareness about TB and its treatment.
“This can be done from one person to another, taking advantage of gatherings such as Umuganda and Itorero. For us as youths, we have different activities with representatives down to the village level where we talk to people about prevention of TB and other diseases,” she told The New Times.
Explaining about the mortality rate, Patrick Migambi, division manager of TB at Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said Rwanda has come from 66 per cent per 100,000 (number of people) to 36 per cent per 100,000.
He attributed this to strategies put across by the Ministry of Health to fight against TB in Rwanda.
“One of the strategies is targeting the screening of TB among high-risk group’s such as people infected with HIV, children under 15, elderly people, inmates and all contacts of TB cases,” he said.
“We have also adopted the use of a sensitive tool known GenExpert in TB diagnosis.”
Also, the contribution of community has aided in following up on patients and the diagnosis.
Against the target of 90 per cent, Rwanda now has 86 per cent of TB detection rate from 56 per cent in the mid-1990s.
Now with the contribution of the media, and youth involvement, the Ministry of Health hopes to attain the remaining 4 per cent detection rate.
The representative of Wold Health Organisation in Rwanda, Dr Olu Olushaya, said TB is still one of the leading killer diseases worldwide, although cases are declining globally. There were an estimated 10.4 million new cases of TB in 2015, with 1.8 million TB deaths globally.
“We still have a lot of work to do not only to sustain and build upon the current achievements but also address the emerging challenges, so that we can end TB in Rwanda and Africa as a whole,” he said.
To do this, Dr Olushaya said the country needs to intensify efforts to reach, treat and cure everyone with TB.
“The most vulnerable people who are disproportionately affected by TB need special attention along with areas that lack access to basic health services,” he added.
Issues such as malnutrition, poor housing, sanitation, environment pollution, poverty and the risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol use should be addressed, as they increase vulnerability to TB, according to health officials.
A 2000 Health ministry statistics indicate that TB cases in the country were about 13,000. However, by 2012, the number decreased to around 10,000 and to around 9,500 in 2014.
In 2015, the ministry recorded 6,930 cases, and a recent research showed that in 2016 this number fell to 6,100.
The resistant TB patients also decreased from 200 in 2005 to around 100 in 2016.
Among those who tested positive and take medicines, 90per cent are completely cured, 8 per cent die either because they delayed to get treatment, don’t follow prescriptions or for other reasons, and 2 per cent either disappear or they retake all medicine session for different reasons.
Dr Jeannine Condo, the director of Rwanda Biomedical Centre, said TB is not a complicated disease, it only requires early treatment and following prescriptions.
Some of the TB symptoms are persistent cough, night fever, loss of appetite, loss of weight in a short period.
Condo asked Rwandans to seek tests at nearby health centres in case symptoms are noticed.
Rwandans were also urged to take the fight against TB to another level by using the power of innovation such as using digital technologies like telemedicine and mobile health technology to facilitate accurate and timely diagnosis of TB.
One of the key components of implementing WHO End TB Strategy is to provide social support and end the catastrophic costs for TB patients.