It has emerged that Covid-19 is frustrating the fight against Tuberculosis (TB) with both TB suspects and volunteers entrusted with collecting sputum and providing sensitisation not comfortable to come in close contact.
The National TB Control Programme established the situation during a tour of mining districts to appreciate efforts being made in the fight against TB.
During the visits, both health officials and volunteers expressed worry on the impact of Covid-19 on TB.
In an interview on Saturday, Karonga Sputum Collection chairperson Michael Mwalilino said with TB signs similar to Covid-19, some TB suspects and their families have been uncomfortable to allow the volunteers in their homes, fearing they might have been in contact with Covid-19 suspects.
“With Covid-19 in place, it has been a challenge dealing with TB suspects and relations. Our work has been affected as it has been hard to collect sputum and sensitise people,” he said.
Mwalilino added that volunteers also feared that they might be dealing with Covid-19 suspects.
In Rumphi, Mkombezi Sputum Collection Point representative Fanny Kanyenda said the volunteers experienced the same challenge of suspects and families unwillingness to have volunteers visit their homes.
Rumphi District Hospital laboratory technician Herbert Chiumia said this year there has been a drop in both the number of sputum collections and cases. He attributed the drop to Covid-19.
“In the first quarter of 2021, the hospital registered 728 TB suspects and 15 positive cases while the same period in 2020 the hospital recorded 987 suspects and 27 positive cases,” he said.
National TB Control Programme assistant community mobilisation and engagement officer Paul Chiwenkha admitted that the coming of Covid-19 has heavily affected the fight against TB as people are uncomfortable to come in close contact.
But he said the programme is intensifying sensitisation campaigns for volunteers and communities so that the country is able to fight TB amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Malawi is among countries fighting to end TB by 2030.