Africa University joins partners to launch the inaugural Zimbabwe National TB Research Open Day

6 August 2021

Africa University’s College of Health, Agriculture and Natural Sciences (CHANS) together with strategic partners John Snow Inc.  (JSI) , the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) and USAID launched the virtual inaugural Zimbabwe National TB Research Open Day held under the theme, “Bridging the gap between TB research and policy in Zimbabwe”.  Dr. Charles Sandy, National TB Programme Manager (MoHCC) in welcome remarks given on behalf of Dr. Mugurungi, Director of the AIDS and TB Unit ,(MoHCC ) said, 

“The purpose of this event is to provide a platform for researchers to share important findings on the spread and mitigation efforts that are channeled towards alleviating TB within communities. Zimbabwe continues to make significant strides in reducing the spread of TB however, COVID- 19 has meant that we need to allow for creative and innovative avenues to flourish through which research and knowledge generation may continue unabated.”

Placing emphasis on the importance of home grown research and solutions, Dr, Sandy said,

“The Government of Zimbabwe has come up with the National TB Strategic Plan (TB NSP) that will run for the period 2021-2025 to guide the country’s TB response. The TB NSP’s main objective is to promote access to high-quality, patient-centered TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment services for all Zimbabweans with all forms of TB in line with the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goals. Research must be informed by local data, analysis and buttressed by what works best in our context. Where we have research that has been done and the findings not shared, it is akin to a wastage of resources which is why programmes such as this are so important.”

Zimbabwe’s TB infections are highest among those living with HIV/AIDS which according to the National HIV Survey (ZIMPHIA 2020)  amounted to 1.23 million adults in 2020 with HIV prevalence higher among women (15.3 %) than men (10.2%) . The country’s strategy towards minimizing TB infection is therefore informed by a collaboration between HIV and TB health services. TB is one of the biggest killers in the country especially among those who are HIV positive. 

Keynote speaker of the event Acting Vice Chancellor Rev. Professor Peter Mageto who was represented by CHANS Dean Professor Sungano Mharakurwa reiterated the commitment and support of Africa University towards  the MoHCC as well as partners in creating healthy and resilient communities in Zimbabwe and beyond.

“Africa University is extremely proud to be a member of the national TB Research  Working Group whose work over the past few months has culminated in this occasion. As Africa University, we are willing to play our part in this collaborative effort to reduce the spread of TB which is preventable and curable. The TB Research Open Day is a platform for Government Ministries, Universities  local and international NGO’s to showcase their findings in this critical filed of work. Our vision as a nation is to create a TB- free Zimbabwe , a vision which dovetails with regional and international agendas in creating healthy communities. The MoHCC and our development partners have come a long way in this fight. The incidence rate declined from 242 per 100,000 in 2015 to a rate of 199 per 100,000 for 2019, signaling positive strides towards ending TB . More however needs to be done. This is especially true during the COVID -19 Pandemic where we have noticed reductions in adherence to medications.”

Prof. Sungano Mharakurwa, Dean CHANS

Prof. Mharakurwa went on to outline the key knowledge areas where more research is needed to inform the creation of relevant and impactful policies that have the power to transform,

” We must increase our capacity and close knowledge gaps in the transmission rates of TB among Children, improve our ability to efficiently detect and diagnose infection among migrants, artisanal miners and vulnerable adult populations, analyze and identify the root cause of negative drug outcomes and to better understand transmission between communities.”

Tuberculosis (TB) is the ninth leading cause of death worldwide and the first leading cause from a single infectious agent. TB is also the leading killer of HIV-positive people. In 2016, 10.4 million people fell ill with TB. A quarter of those people were from Africa (2.5 million people). In the same year 1.7 million died from TB globally with 417,000 deaths (over 25 %) from the African region. Between 2000 and 2014, 10 million lives were saved in the African Region through TB diagnosis and treatment. Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. The 2013 Abuja Declaration sets the targets of ending TB in Africa by 2030.TB is an airborne Disease. It is spread between humans through inhaling  air infected with TB germs through coughing, sneezing or spittle from an infected person. Common symptoms of active lung TB are cough with sputum and blood at times accompanied by chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats (Source: Africa CDC).