MOHS and Partners meet to Review Status of TB/Leprosy in the Country
Freetown, April, 19, 016 (MOHS) – Delivering his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the three-day Annual TB/Leprosy Review Meeting held at the Wusum Hotel in Makeni, Health and Sanitation Minister, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah said that Tuberculosis accounts for 1.7 million deaths globally. (Photo: Group photo of Health Minister, Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, participants and partners )
He disclosed that the actual burden in Sierra Leone in terms of the number of new cases as well as existing cases of the disease remains speculative, noting that the necessary studies have not been carried out. Where they have been carried out he said needs sufficient information to determine the true magnitude which remains a problem.
Dr. Fofanah told his audience that the problem of TB poses serious threat to the social and economic development in any country where the incidence and prevalence are high.
He further stated that reviewing progress activities is a reality check that provides opportunity to have dialogue with partners on their achievements and challenges for a collective effort for improvement.
The Health Minister maintained that the government has made lots of the efforts to control TB including providing the right policy environment for the control of TB through the development of several strategic policy documents like the National Health Sector Strategic Plan (NHSSP), National TB Strategic Policy (NTBSP), TB treatment guidelines, adding that it is also a policy for the government to offer FREE TB TREATMENT.
Dr. Fofanah commended the efforts made by the District Health Management Teams, adding that they played a central role in achieving successes in strengthening the health sector and in the fight against Leprosy and Tuberculosis in the country.
Government he said is aware of the difficulties that the TB programme is faced with especially lack of relevant diagnostic equipment and the stigma attached to the disease and advocating for more support both from government and external donors.
He called on the programme’s leadership to give human resource development a keen consideration in the 5 years strategic plan, adding that the Ministry has lined up series of activities including upgrading of the Direct Observe Treatment Service (DOTS) centers, expansion of Lakka hospital and service delivery points prioritizing hard to reach communities.
The Minister pointed out that with all the activities lined up, the input of all donors and partners in health is crucial.
Dr. Fofanah reiterated that work is in progress to rehabilitate and equip the National Reference Laboratory and to also provide a dignified office space for the national programme.
He informed the audience that his Ministry has in the past years ensured the free service delivery without any adverse incident, saying that the Ministry of Health will continue to render their service to the people of this country at all times.
Dr. Fofanah commends the effort of their partners, German Leprosy and Tuberculosis Relief Association (GLRA), World Health Organization (WHO), Global Fund and Association of Public Health Laboratory (APHL) who have been very supportive in eradicating TB/Leprosy in the country and also commends the untiring effort of the National TB/Leprosy Control Programme Management and Secretariat.
Making her presentation, the Manager, National Tuberculosis/Leprosy Control Programme, Dr. Lynda Foray highlighted key issues which include review of the programme performance indicators at National and District level, under reported cases, high defaulters’ rate, challenges on capacity building and lack of TB wards, restrictive funding, increase of HIV among TB patients, contact tracing among others.
Dr. Foray told participants and guests that the Ebola outbreak was also a challenge in getting people to seek treatment which she said had an effect on increase delivery in Direct Observe Treatment (DOTs) Service Centres across the country.
She reiterated the need for concerted efforts to improve on notification and capacity building on skills training, and commended the Health Ministry and partners for their invaluable support to the programme.
Dr. Foray also noted the significant role played by her staff across the country and lauded them for their hard work and contributions towards the success of the review meeting.
The German Leprosy and TB Relief Association (GLRA) Country Representative, Mr. Cyril Johnson expressed appreciation over the support received from the government of Sierra Leone by having free-hand in the fight against TB and Leprosy in the country.
He described TB as one of the killer diseases in Sierra Leone, adding that the collaboration with government and other partners would help bring TB to the end.
Mr. Johnson said they will continue to facilitate the desire of their donors to change lives as funding has been very challenging.
He reiterated GLRA’s continued commitment to support the National TB/Leprosy Control Programme, the National Reference Laboratory and Research within the framework of progress and growth.
The UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Michael Frank Gboun commends the leadership of the Program and the passion of the Minister of Health and Sanitation as demonstrated by his political leadership and dedication to service.
He told the meeting that strategic planning is a key element to putting together accountability framework, adding that his message to all is integration and synergy, not forgetting also the lessons learnt from the Ebola outbreak.
Other speakers include representatives from the Association of Public Health Laboratory (APHL), Chairman Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) Rev. Alimamy Kargbo, Advocacy and Communication Officer, Mrs. Patricia Bah and Chairman for the occasion and District Medical Officer Bombali, Dr. Brima Osaio Kamara.
Districts presentations on findings and recommendations from the Green Light Committee Mission, and End TB Strategy formed high point of the Review Meeting.
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