A RECENT report released by the World Health Organisation indicates that one in four people with TB worldwide are suffering from a form of the disease that can no longer be cured by standard drug treatment.
For example, 28 percent of all people newly diagnosed with TB in one region of northwestern Russia had the multidrug-resistant form of the disease (MDR-TB) in 2008, the highest level ever reported to the WHO. Previously, the highest recorded level was 22percent in Baku City, Azerbaijan, in 2007.
In the new WHO's Multidrug and Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis: 2010 Global Report on Surveillance and Response, it is estimated that 440000 people had MDR-TB worldwide in 2008 and that a third of them died.
In sheer numbers, Asia bears the brunt of the epidemic. Almost 50percent of MDR-TB cases worldwide are estimated to occur in China and India.
In Africa, reports indicate 69000 cases emerged, most of which went undiagnosed. Against this background, Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi and his KwaZulu-Natal counterpart MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo are launching the "Kick TB Campaign" today. The campaign aims to eradicate TB and to rally primary school learners to be TB champions.
The pilot campaign will be launched at Greenbury Primary School in Phoenix.
It is aimed at raising awareness of TB among pupils and to ensure that they become champions of the campaign. The campaign will then be rolled out to other provincial schools among the 300 health-promoting schools identified countrywide.
Until recently, the approaches to TB care and control have been focused mostly on adults, with very limited scope to the contribution by children in adopting prevention practices and their influence on adults and families.
KwaZulu-Natal has a very high incidence of the disease. There are 119000 new cases every year, with 83 percent being pulmonary TB.
However, the province has also seen a drop in smear positivity - from 55percent to 45percent - which can be attributed to the number of active TB cases related to HIV.
Two other schools in southern KwaZulu-Natal will take part in the pilot project. They are Kusakusa (KwaMakhutha) and Zakhele (Clermont) primary schools.