World TB Day Highlights PNG Struggles With Deadly Disease

Dr Rose Haywood working in health centre in PNG.

World TB Day rolls around every year on 24 March. It’s a day to highlight the awful statistics (1) that accompany this deadly disease, namely:

  • One fourth of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis (TB).
  • In 2016, 10.4 million people around the world became sick with TB disease. There were 1.7 million TB-related deaths worldwide.
  • TB is a leading killer of people who are HIV infected.

TB is a disease ADI is well versed because of our healthcare work in PNG. Part of our work in PNG is to treat TB patients, train health workers and educate communities about the disease.

PNG is Australia’s nearest neighbour and yet it ranks as having the worst highest prevalence rates of with an estimated 337 infections per 100,000 people (2). By comparison, the world’s most affected region Africa has 450/100,000 and the second most affected region Southeast Asia has 280/100,000 (3). The tragedy is the reality is likely to be worse as many cases are unreported.

“TB is endemic to PNG, largely because of the country’s massive challenges to diagnosing and treating it,” explained Dr. Peter Macdonald, ADI’s President.

Around 50% of the population is infected with TB, according to the World Health Organisation’s PNG office (4), whilst someone dies from the disease every two hours, according to the PNG National Department of Health (5).

Based on ADI’s New Ireland & Western Province Patrols in 2017 we recorded 320 suspected/tested for TB, confirmed 38 cases, and delivered six hours of TB education in rural communities to 2,066 community members.

It’s shocking to think in a remote place like Kimidan in PNG there are five new TB patients per month. On the positive side, the United Church with NIPHA are building a new TB ward in this Health Centre. But as usual they are underfunded.

In the island of Tanga a case of Multidrug-resistant TB was uncovered. Although ADI plans to be there in June 2018, the health services in this island is poor. Relief can’t come quick enough. This is a real concern for Australians too with PNG islands so close to Australian waters. We have a vested interest to contain and halt the spread of this disease.

Together with our partners – Australian and PNG organisations, including governments, philanthropics, individual donors, local and national non-government organisations – ADI is  working as a team to combat this disease.

If you want to support our effort you can donate here or join us on the frontline as a medical volunteer.

Sources:

(1) Source: https://www.cdc.gov/tb/statistics/default.htm

(2) http://www.who.int/GlobalAtlas/predefinedReports/TB/PDF_Files/png.pdf

(3) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs104/en/

(4) World Health Organisation in PNG via Radio New Zealand 13/3/2011

(5) http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportID=91096

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