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

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid