Efforts to combat TB in PNG scaled up
Médecins Sans Frontières says it's scaling up efforts to help combat tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea, as the country continues to battle with a soaring outbreak of the disease.
Médecins Sans Frontières says it is scaling up efforts to help combat tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea, as the country continues to battle with a soaring outbreak of the disease.
The NGO is part of an emergency taskforce announced by the government last August in response to a large increase in the number of drug-resistant cases of TB.
The programme manager for MSF's TB project, Eric Pujo, says a newly-launched programme is hoping to both diagnose the scope and nature of TB in Gulf province and the capital, Port Moresby.
He told Jamie Tahana authorities don't have much of an idea of TB's prevalence, but there are over 6,000 cases reported annually in Port Moresby alone.
ERIC PUJO: It's difficult to have a proper vision of what is the level of the burden because the country is lacking diagnostic systems and is lacking also different capacity to be able to implement proper tuberculosis programme. The MSF is trying and is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health on this issue and is trying to implement fully functional tuberculosis project in Gulf Province and in Port Moresby in the coming months.
JAMIE TAHANA: So you're saying here that it's hard to gauge the extent of tuberculosis in Papua New Guinea because we just don't know the numbers really?
EP: Yes exactly. We think that there is probably about two or three times higher than official burden but access is very difficult in Papua New Guinea so it takes time to be able to have a clear view of what is the level exactly of the burden. One thing is for sure is that the burden is very high. That's clear.
JT: This new programme that's being launched in the Gulf Province as well as Port Moresby. Just take us through this a bit.
EP: The Gulf Province started in May 2014 and the first thing that I wanted on the ground was to provide for the population a proper diagnostic tool to be able for them to be diagnosed quickly on tuberculosis disease and also of course to attract the people to be able to get tested. It's going through external consolation and the second part of it is Médecins Sans Frontières to try to reach some remote areas of this programme and to be able to continue and to develop these tuberculosis activities. We have to cover as much population as possible despite a lot of physical constraints in the country. To give you some figures, at the end of the year 2014 we were having 300 patients under treatment for tuberculosis and some of were for drug-resistent tuberculosis. What they were facing was challenges and they needed support from external actors to be able to develop more of their capacity and to support them in this kind of high burden level in this country.
JT: Six or seven months since the taskforce was launched in August. Has progress been made? Are we starting to see positive signs?
EP: Progress has been made. It's really something that is ongoing of course. It takes a bit more time. We are tackling some issues. One of those issues is that in order to ensure that the tuberculosis programme is increasing step by step based on the taskforce. We are having discussions. Money is more available and we hope will be more available and things are progressing.
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