Zimbabwe: First Lady Welcomes TB Champions

Zimbabwe has appointed TB Champions as it steps up the fight against tuberculosis (TB), which remains one of the major causes of death.

The appointments were made under the "Stop TB Partnership", which brings together actors from different sectors of society across the country to use their key competencies in ending TB and stigma.

In her keynote address, the country's health ambassador, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa welcomed the appointment of the TB Champions as a milestone.

"We are gathered here today under uncommon circumstances when the world is faced with the impact of Covid-19 pandemic," she said.

"This pandemic demands us to work together more than ever before as its effects are widely spread across socio-economic aspects of life.

"I am working with partners across the country to help curb this virus, while making sure that vulnerable and marginalised communities are well taken care of.

"As we are tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, it is my duty as the health ambassador to ensure we do not leave other diseases and health issues behind."

The First Lady said Zimbabwe was beginning a journey to work together with celebrities and influential people in the fight against TB as they will each contribute from their core competencies, skills and talents to form one voice and one goal to end TB.

"This is in line with the Stop TB Partnership Zimbabwe mandate to coordinate various partners to work together with the Ministry of Health and Child Care, through the national TB programme, to maximise efficiency and effectiveness of efforts towards ending TB in Zimbabwe," she said.

"The champions will work hard to fight against TB, HIV, Covid-19 and other comorbidities prompting a healthier lifestyle and nutrition and advocating against all harmful norms that cause diseases."

Stop TB Partnership Zimbabwe, said the First Lady, was one of many other country-level partnerships which mirror the global Stop TB Partnership in Geneva.

"I would like to, therefore, thank Stop TB Partnership Geneva office for the financial and technical support throughout the establishment and development of Zimbabwe's country level partnership," she said.

"The formation of this partnership was initially made possible with support from Global Fund and WHO and USAID's Challenge TB project under The Union and WHO-Zimbabwe.

"Stop TB Partnership Zimbabwe brings together actors from different sectors of society across the country on a common platform towards supporting and strengthening the TB response.

"The partnership is comprised of (but not limited to) the private sector, civil society, development actors, celebrities, parliamentarians, journalists, TB Champions, the academia, traditional leaders, among others.

"All partners contribute from their core competencies, and collectively catalyse an innovative approach towards ending TB in Zimbabwe."

Amai Mnangagwa said there was need for collaboration and coordination of efforts to scale-up the country's response to TB in the general population.

"This will ensure we end stigma and discrimination against TB, while enhancing access to information and services, especially for hard to reach, at high risk and marginalised communities," she said.

"As Zimbabwe, our dream is to make sure everyone has access to quality health services as such we, therefore, are looking forward to working with all of you fruitfully towards ending TB in Zimbabwe."

Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo said globally, nearly 10 million people get sick with TB each year and the disease is the number one cause of mortality amongst all infectious conditions and for people living with HIV.

"However, despite the best efforts of many individuals and organisations to raise awareness on TB, it remains an invisible disease.

"TB is widely and mistakenly considered a disease of the past even though it is still a global pandemic claiming millions of lives every year."

National TB programme deputy director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Charles Sandy, said data from routine surveillance system demonstrated that despite a huge burden, Zimbabwe was winning the war against TB.

"TB continues to show a sustained decline and outcomes of treatment are improving, though still below the target," he said.

"To this end, we aim to ensure an integrated approach when addressing TB diseases and HIV infection and are working closely with NAC and other HIV partners to ensure 100 percent of TB patients get an HIV test and 100 percent of HIV clients are getting a TB screen at every contact with the health worker."

Dr Sandy said stigma remained a challenge and they had received support from the Global Stop TB Partnership to establish the local chapter which supports the work of the ministry.

Stop TB partnership chairperson, Mr Ronald Rungoyi, also attended the event and gave an overview of Stop TB Partnership.

Among the appointed TB Champions are Star-FM radio presenter Linda Muriro, Cricketer Marry-Anne Musonda, Musician Tawanda Mumayi (Seh Calaz), poet Albert Nyathi and traditional leader Chief Murambwi.

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