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Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Drought in Zimbabwe leads to increase in TB-related deaths

Drought in Zimbabwe leads to increase in TB-related deaths

Thu, 14 Jun 2012 09:51 GMT

Source: member // International HIV/AIDS Alliance – UK

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 

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.

Samkeliso Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean journalist and member of the Key 
Correspondents Team, a vibrant network of some 250 citizen journalists based 
in 50 countries who write about health and development issues affecting them 
and their communities.


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