Ghana battles Tuberculosis with prevalence rate surging

Health officials in Ghana have announced a surge in the number of Tuberculosis cases being reported at health centers across the country, something that gets them worried.

This has led to several interventions including creating awareness and encouraging people to come out and test for the disease. These initiatives including widening access to testing and treatment are taking place in impoverished communities where little ventilation and pollution is high.

Buduburam in central Ghana is a community that was and still remains home to thousands of Liberian refugees. Although some of them have been repatriated back to Liberia from the refugee camp, many still remained and inter married with locals making Ghana their home by choice.

This community has one of the largest prevalence rates when it comes to Tuberculosis cases in Ghana.

A view of the Buduburam community in Ghana. It is home to mostly Liberian refugees. Photo: Natalia Ojewska

23 year old Alex Morgan was diagnosed with the TB a year ago but only after several wrong diagnoses of other diseases. That nearly led to his death since the actual disease TB had a devastating impact on him. He told Africa Feeds “I started getting sick, I started feeling cold, my body getting hot, sweat at nite. I was also losing weight. I went through a lot. I cannot eat, feeling pain in my chest”

A health center now operates in the Buduburam community and Samuel Kudzawu who is a TB specialist at Ghana’s foremost hospital the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital owns and manages this health post due to the high cases here. He was the health officer who attended to Alex at the most critical stages of his sickness.

Samuel’s father suffered from TB while growing up, four of his siblings contracted the disease and his sister died from it. Samuel has lived with this pain and wants to make a difference with this health post.

Buduburam is congested with unstructured buildings. There is little ventilation in homes and the environment is constantly polluted. Samuel explained that such a condition only allows for the TB to spread quickly.

“It’s an airborne disease so if five people are sleeping in a room that has no window or has only one window, by the time you detect that one person has TB he has infected the others. Being able to eat well, doing miniature jobs if you are working at the query, you are working at the dump hill, you are working at a dusty environment, all these things can weaken your health,” Samuel explained reasons for the prevalence rate in environments such as the one at Buduburam.

Inside of the Buduburam Refugee Camp. Structures housing residents are not well built. Photo: Natalia Ojewska

After 5months of treatment Alex has gained his strength back and was hopeful of going back to doing what he loves most, that is studying his books at the University. But he nearly gave up on treatment due to stigma from family and friends.

“There is a stigma you know, other people will like to say things that will even make you, won’t like to go through the treatment. When I dropped weight people said many things, some were saying that its HIV, until I got to know its TB and the doctor told me that I will be healed and I felt joy in my heart,” Alex said.

Testing for TB has been low among Ghanaians due to stigma.

According to the Ghana Health service, 286 out of 100000 people in Ghana contract TB annually in the West African nation. The prevalence rate according to health officials is thus surging and worrying for many experts who recently came to Accra for the Africa Union Region on Tuberculosis and lung health stakeholder conference.

Paula Fujiwara, the Scientific Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease said the TB bacteria is gradually becoming resistant to drugs, something that was worrying

Paula said “We need TB drugs, multiple drugs, because when you treat Tuberculosis, you need many drugs. The worst thing you can do in treating TB is to give one drug. Because you give one drug it kills some of the germs but other germs are living. So you need to have another drug that attacks it from another angle. But we are running out of drugs”

Campaigns are taking place to encourage people to test for the disease.

A project has now been launched in remote communities in Ghana to help persons suffering from TB. The Alliance for Battle Against Tuberculosis initiative operated in the Buduburam community by Samuel Kudzawu will now create awareness and encourage people to test for the disease and also eliminating stigma.

“Lack of awareness, I am talking about health workers and the public at large. Ideally if TB diagnosis is free the message should have been that, anyone who coughs must check for TB first. Some people come here and after being diagnosed for TB they nicodemusly to take their drugs. Some even don’t want their work colleagues to know. So these are things that will make people to hit it” Samuel said.

Health officials are hoping with improved investment in TB treatment, attitudes will also change to encourage people to test and avoid spreading the disease.



Source: / Isaac Kaledzi /Ghana

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