Every morning Benedicta Ayuma gives a thanksgiving prayer for her five year old son who is sick with TB. Since he was diagnosed more than eight months ago, Ayuma has been making sure she gives Joseph the medication that he has been prescribed.
Joseph is a lucky boy. At least he is not be among the 60 people (including children) who die everyday from TB. With medication,he is expected to get better and avoid the fate of the 15,000 people who die every year from TB.
According to the WHO, there are over 88,000 people infected with TB in Kenya with another 270 getting infected every day making Kenya one of the 22 countries which account for 80 per cent of the world’s TB cases
TB, a disease caused by a bacteria which affects the lungs, is the fourth leading cause of death in Kenya. Most of those at risk are the most productive members of society—15 and 44 years— who are also the group with the highest rate of HIV infections.
Apart from co-infection due to HIV/Aids, the spread of TB is due to ignorance and lack of awareness, failure to adhere to the strict treatment regimen, delayed treatment and poor access to services. The congestion in prisons, poverty and social deprivation that leads to the mushrooming of slums also contribute to the spread of the disease.
There are only two TB isolation wards in the country— one at KNH in Nairobi and the other at the Moi Referral Hospital in Eldoret— which are supposed to estimated 2,750 cases of multi-drug and extreme drug resistant TB (XDTB) cases in the country. A report by the National tuberculosis, Leprosy and Lung Disease Unit recommended that isolation wards be provided at all county hospitals as well as other health facilities not only to care for those who require admission but also those who may have severe side effects especially children and pregnant women.
Annually, the government spends Sh11 billion to tackle TB. It costs Sh1.5m to Sh2 m to treat one TB patient. It costs between Sh3m to Sh5 m to treat a person with multi-drug-resistant TB. The treatment can range from 6 months to one year to 18 months depending on the severity of the infection. The WHO recently approved a new treatment regimen that will reduce the cost of treatment to $1,000 per patient.
Last year, a TB advocacy group Stop TB Partnership recommended that each county establish at least one isolation ward in every county as well as increase the number of TB treatment sites.
The cost of the KNH Isolation ward was Sh40m with Sh21 million for equipment. Another three similar isolation wards could be built and equipped with the cash being spent on tea, sandwiches, etc. Or it could pay for the treatment of 80 of the 2760 people diagnosed with multi-drug resistant TB!
It could also pay for basic chest x-rays for the 93,000 people who are likely to be infected with TB this year. The cost of a basic Chest x-ray is about Sh500 in a public hospital and over Sh2,600 in a private hospital.
But it isn’t just healthcare. If they only spent 5o per cent of their coffee/tea budget, the savings would be enough to pay 12 months rent for 5,040 people who pay a minimum of Sh2,000 for a room in the informal settlements.
Use the tool and check how much of your own home rent could be written off, if government officials simply went on a diet.