31 May 2018 | Press releases

New project will dramatically increase pediatric TB prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in Zimbabwe

image: Heather Mason/EGPAF

Harare – The Zimbabwe government in partnership with Unitaid and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) today launched a four-year project to fight tuberculosis among children, a long-underserved group that bears the burden of TB illness and death worldwide. TB, a preventable, curable disease, is the second biggest killer of children in Zimbabwe. 

The project will scale up better diagnostic tests, easier to take, better-tasting medicines and new strategies for finding children with undiagnosed TB or in need of prevention. 

Funded by Unitaid and carried out by EGPAF, the project expects to double diagnosis of pediatric TB in Zimbabwe, and greatly increase the number of children who receive appropriate treatment and prevention. The project is called CaP TB, which stands for “Catalyzing Pediatric Tuberculosis Innovation.“

“CaP TB is an important contribution to our continued efforts to address childhood TB,” Zimbabwe Minister of Health and Child Care Dr. P. Parirenyatwa said. “Achieving our collective goal of zero TB deaths among children requires sustained advocacy, greater commitment, mobilization of increased resources and a joint effort by all stakeholders.” 

The burden of TB in children is much higher because many are undiagnosed.

“Every day, more than 200 children under the age of 15 die needlessly of TB worldwide,” Unitaid Executive Director Lelio Marmora said. “Unitaid is investing heavily in programs like CaP TB that integrate TB treatment into existing HIV and maternal and child health services. It’s a wise strategy for reaching more children with lifesaving treatment, and reaching them faster.”

Children with undiagnosed TB are often mistakenly treated for other ailments. Those exposed to TB are more likely than adults to develop the active form of the disease and to die from it. Other factors, such as age, HIV infection and malnutrition make TB more immediately life-threatening for children.

“As defenders of children’s health, we at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation are determined to help the MOHCC find and implement innovative solutions to the TB epidemic’s impact on children and their families,” Dr. Agnes Mahomva, Country Director for EGPAF in Zimbabwe said.

According to the World Health Organization, children should account for about 15 percent of reported TB cases in high-burden countries.  In Zimbabwe, children account for only eight percent of notifications, suggesting that half the children with active TB are not being diagnosed.

A strategy central to the project is to decentralize pediatric TB services and integrate them into the wider healthcare system, bringing care closer, and earlier, to the children who need it. The project will also train healthcare workers to collect samples from children and to perform clinical diagnosis when children cannot provide samples. 

CaP TB is being implemented in eight other sub-Saharan African countries and India.

EGPAF will establish services in 20 pilot sites in Zimbabwe during the first two years of the project, and 30 more sites in the last two years.

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