TB kills thousands as health system collapses

Zimbabwe's tuberculosis treatment programme, once the envy of many developing countries and a benchmark for successful health delivery systems in Africa, has collapsed.
Thorngrove TB Referral Hospital in Bulawa

yo, Parirenyatwa Hospital in the capital Harare and Chikombedzi General Hospital, where tuberculosis treatment used to be state-of-the-art, have become death traps as essential medicines run out and vital equipment is stretched to the limit by the rising number of TB cases.
Complicating the situation, Zimbabwe has completely run out of foreign currency required to import the life-saving drugs.
More than two million Zimbabweans are believed to be living with HIV/AIDS.
According to the statistics made available to the media by the Minister of Health, Dr David Parirenyatwa recently, over 2 500 people are dying weekly as a result of HIV/AIDS with 700 others contracting the HIV infection daily.
The World Health Organisation reports that TB deaths are 151 per 100 000 per year in a population of more than 13 million people, while 68 percent of HIV/AIDS deaths are linked to the disease.
“Zimbabwe was the southern Africa’s second largest and successful economy after South Africa, but because of President Mugabe’s economic mess and the political turmoil, the country has finally collapsed economically.
“Many patients shall continue to die because hospitals have no drugs. Worse still, our professionally trained doctors and nurses have left the country for greener pastures,” said Masheck Mangwiro, a health practitioner in Bulawayo.
With the health delivery system hitting rock bottom, it has emerged that TB patients are now required to provide their own drips as well as paying for the vaccinations – at exorbitant costs.
This is in painful contrast to 15 years ago when Zimbabwe introduced the Direct Observed Treatment Strategy (DOTS) to combat the infectious disease. Then, the country was top of the list for curing TB.
TB is now the second leading killer disease after HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe.
Nhlanhla Ncube, a Zimbabwean based in South Africa, relates how the formerly successful TB treatment projects have taken a knock after his wife passed away in Zimbabwe recently after a short battle against the disease.
“I spent vast amounts of money to provide my wife with such equipment as drips, which years back were provided by government. The cost of the vaccines also stretched my budget to the limit. When I heard my wife say the treatment was not making her any better, I knew it was over,” said Ncube.
Beitbridge senator, Tambudzani Mohadi, admits that the government has its hands full in trying to combat TB.
“The problem of TB is beyond the capacity of the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare alone,” she is quoted as saying in the belated TB Day commemorations held recently.
The health delivery system is only one of many sectors that have suffered as a result of the Mugabe regime’s mismanagement and the subsequent economic decline that is in its eighth successive year. – Own correspondent

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