Zimbabwe’s efforts at reducing the incidence of tuberculosis (TB) have begun to pay off following the declaration by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that the country had transitioned out of the top 30 high TB burden countries in the world.
The global health body last week released updated lists of high burden countries for TB, HIV-associated TB and multidrug/rifampicin-resistant TB (MDR/RR-TB) for 2021-2025.
According to Global Tuberculosis Report 2020, between 2015 and 2019, incidence per 100 000 population per year declined by an estimated 18 percent in Zimbabwe.
“WHO has officially communicated with the ministers of health of Cambodia, the Russian Federation and Zimbabwe, to inform them about their country’s transition out of the list of 30 high TB burden countries and to recognize their success in reducing the burden of TB disease in recent years.
“Between 2015 and 2019, incidence (per 100 000 population per year) fell by an estimated 22 percent, 25 percent and 18 percent, respectively, in the three countries,” said the health body.
WHO said it would establish a ‘global TB watchlist’, consisting of the three countries transitioning out the global list of 30 high TB burden countries, since they still warranted continued attention and remained a priority in terms of support from the organisation.
Zimbabwe was among the top eight African countries in the World’s top 30 countries heavily burdened by TB, TB/HIV and multi-drug resistant TB with the most affected groups being women in the reproductive age group (15 years to 44 years) and men.
In March, Vice President and Minister of Health Dr Constantino Chiwenga said the Government had made significant progress in reducing the TB incidence rate from 242 per 100 000 in 2015 to a rate of 199 per 100 000 in 2019. He encouraged collaboration between HIV and TB health service provision continued to be of importance as the country’s TB epidemic is largely HIV-driven.
The country is however still highly burdened by TB/HIV and multi-drug resistant TB.
The WHO lists provide a focus for global action on TB, HIV-associated TB and drug-resistant TB in the countries where progress is most needed to achieve the targets set in End TB Strategy, the political declaration of the United Nations (UN) high-level meeting on TB held in 2018 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They also help to build and sustain national political commitment and funding in the countries with the highest burden in terms of absolute numbers or severity and promote global monitoring of progress in a well-defined set of countries.