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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
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 Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
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.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid