‘Paediatric TB still a challenge’

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by PHYLLIS MBANJE/VARAIDZO MUDEWAIRI
STAKEHOLDERS in the health sector have said paediatric tuberculosis (TB) remains a challenge in Zimbabwe with most of the cases going unreported or mis-diagnosed.

Zimbabwe has been delisted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) from the global list of top 30 countries with a high TB burden, but paediatric TB  has remained a challenge. According to WHO, about 4 000 people succumb to the disease in Africa each year.

Union Zimbabwe Trust executive director Ronald Ncube said the proportion of children with TB was approximately 10% to 15% of all TB notifications in the country.

“Notably in 2020, only 6% of all notified TB cases in the country were contributed by children, meaning that we are likely missing some children with TB in our communities,” Ncube said.

He said the major challenge was that symptoms of TB in children were non-specific and may mimic other conditions making it difficult for health workers to diagnose.

“WHO also requires that a laboratory confirmation of diagnosis be made wherever possible, and this requires a respiratory or sputum specimen. For children, they may be unable to cough out a sputum specimen as they usually swallow the sputum. In addition, the number of bacteria in a specimen collected from a child may be too low to accurately detect TB,” he said.

Despite these challenges, new innovations have been introduced, such as the use of stool specimens to diagnose TB in children or urine for those living with HIV or are very ill.

Through Kunda-Nqob’iTB programme, the Union Zimbabwe Trust in collaboration with three local partners has been supporting the Health ministry to train health workers on how to diagnose and manage TB in children across eight priority districts.

Meanwhile, the Students and Youth Working on Reproductive Health Action Team has urged the government to commit more resources to higher learning institutions health facilities to fight TB and save the lives of young people.

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