News / Africa

TB is Number One Killer in South Africa

FILE - Patients with tuberculosis (TB) and HIV wear masks while awaiting consultation at a clinic in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township, South Africa.
FILE - Patients with tuberculosis (TB) and HIV wear masks while awaiting consultation at a clinic in Cape Town's Khayelitsha township, South Africa.
As the world observes World TB Day on March 24 to raise awareness of the fight against tuberculosis, South Africa is struggling to conquer its top killer. Activists say more focus is needed on poor communities as drug resistant strains take hold and wreak havoc.  With 80 percent of the country's young adults already infected with TB, health experts say there is no time to lose.

This year South Africa commemorates World Tuberculosis Day under the theme "finding, treating and curing TB in hard to reach communities."

The World Health Organization said 482,000 of South Africa's 50 million people contracted TB every year and it wa the leading cause of death.

Of the 505,803 people who died in South Africa in 2011, 12 percent of the men and 10 percent  of the women died from TB.

This has AIDS activists and organizations worried - since AIDS patients are extremely vulnerable to TB. And South Africa has the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world.

Peter Mabulane, Community Services Manager at the South African National Tuberculosis Association, said poverty was the culprit when it came to accessing information and treatment for this curable disease.

"If you check the poverty stricken line in South Africa, that's where you find a lot of TB patients because they don't have good nutrition, they can't afford this, they are squatters. For you to win the battle against TB one of the main things is that you need to live a healthy living style, you need to eat proper food and we don't have that," he said.

Bongie Ndlovu is 39 and has been living for the last 10 years in an impoverished informal settlement south of Johannesburg. Her shack, at the foot of a hill, is surrounded by rotting and stinking garbage. She and her neighbors spend days and nights in the dark and in damp shacks due to poor ventilation and many have contracted TB as a result.

She said, "many people here will tell you they do not have TB, but you will see it if you look carefully. They are sick because of the filthy living conditions."

Dr. Ahmed Mohamed has operated a private surgery practice for years at Bekkersdal - one of the areas hit by violent protests in South Africa because of poor living conditions.

He said unless the government decentralized TB treatment centers to poor communities and improved general living conditions, the fight against TB was a lost cause.

"You can see we are surrounded by sewage overflows, water waste overflows, rubbish not being collected. It's all unhygienic and authorities are not listening," he said.

Mabulane said unless more resources were put into South Africa's sprawling, impoverished townships, the country would fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing TB deaths by 50 percent in 2015. 

He also proposed a new drug regimen and research to reduce the number of pills taken by TB patients each day.

"Five pills every day for six months, imagine if it was one pill everyday. Then we win the war. We're saying nutrition, healthy living style, community mobilization, then we win the whole war," he said.

Mabulane argued that with the Multi-Drug Resistant TB also taking a toll on the country's population, delays in taking action would only prove catastrophic for the country.

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid