Minister of Health, Sylvia Masebo, says tuberculosis (TB) remains a major public concern in the country and globally. Ms Masebo said Zambia is classified as one of the 30 TB high burden countries with an annual estimation of at least 59,000 new cases.
She said this in a speech read on her behalf by Acting Director for Public Health in the Ministry of Health, Matilda Simpungwe, at a media engagement workshop in Lusaka.
The Minister of Health said over 7,000 lives were lost in 2021 alone due to TB, adding that the trend is not different from the other years before.
Ms Masebo revealed that her ministry has since placed modern and robust equipment at the community level in the form of mobile TB trucks for screening.
“These trucks are equipped with a digital chest X-ray machine and a genexpert equipment. With these tools, we are able to confirm TB diagnosis within two hours,” she said.
She further said her ministry, through the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme in Zambia, understands the value of media in the fight against TB.
Ms Masebo said her ministry has since made various efforts to engage various media to raise awareness on tuberculosis.
She explained that it is very difficult for journalists to effectively and fully cover issues related to TB if the right information about the disease is not given to them.
“We cannot effectively fight TB without reaching all the people who need to hear messages about TB prevention, symptoms and treatment and act on them,” she said.
Ms Masebo said working with media can have a significant impact because it is highly influential and reaches a wider audience.
She said the media has an agenda-setting role and can influence the silence of TB as an issue in a public arena.
“Providing complete and correct information to people can ensure early diagnosis and treatment and lack of knowledge creates myths and misconceptions which result in stigma against the TB,” she said.
Ms Masebo further explained that the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with other stakeholders, has devised a package plan of action for print and electronic media personnel.
She added that with the media scope and influence, people who need treatment can be reached and the public can be educated, including transporters on the health risk in their midst.
“Media can advocate for increased awareness of TB among health workers, encourage authorities to implement policies towards proper housing that promote TB infections control,” she said.
The media engagement was organised by the Tuberculosis Local Organization Network (TLON).
And Tuberculosis Local Organization Network Advisor for USAID, Mwaba Kasese, reiterated the importance of completing TB treatment.