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Lodwar residents benefit from free TB screening

Turkana County Government, through County Department of Health and Sanitation, has screened over 400 people in the low-income neighbourhood of California and Soweto for Tuberculosis (TB) in line with its strategy to eradicate the fatal infectious disease in the County.

The three-day screening exercise, leading up to the World TB Day marked every year on March 24th, is meant to identify the people in the early stages of the disease for immediate treatment to reduce its spread.

While speaking on the first day of screening, the County Coordinator of TB, Leprosy and Lung Diseases – Dr Job Okemwa said the two neighbourhoods were selected for the screening due to the congested living conditions that increase the risk of TB transmission among the residents.

“TB is preventable and curable that has been the consistent message in every World TB Day theme since it was earmarked for eradication, however this goal depends on early diagnosis and treatment,” he said.

According to Jonah Ngasike – Turkana Central Sub-county TB Coordinator, the results at the end of the three-day exercise would give a true picture of the TB burden in the urban slums of Lodwar town.

“This would give the County TB Program a way forward to develop interventions that would reduce transmission in similar conditions,” he said.

As of the first quarter of 2023 (January to March), the two areas had already recorded 18 new cases which compared to the same period last year with 16.

Jonah pointed out that the 2023’s first quarter was yet to end, thus expecting an increase of new TB cases identified in the concluded screening exercise.

For five months, Mzee Ekai had a persistent cough and experienced difficulty in breathing, chest pains and pain when swallowing.

The 83-year old, a resident of Soweto, was screened on the first day, on the second diagnosed with TB and on third day placed on the free six-month TB treatment regime; supported by the National TB, Leprosy and Lung Diseases Program.

“I’m glad that I heard the public address system announcing the free TB screening and now I have the medical assistance I needed,” he said.

Dennis Erot, Project coordinator for World Relief International, pointed out that such TB screening was an indicator of positive community engagement which is essential in the progress to end TB.

“Through collaboration and meaningful partnership with health partners, integration of TB active case finding in other community health outreaches will improve early detection,” he said.

This year’s World TB Day will be held in Turkana South Sub-county’s Lokichar Sale Yard with additional two days of free TB screening at Uhuru and AGC High Schools on the 24th and 25th March respectively.

The screenings and activities were supported by World Relief Kenya, Save the Children Kenya, Kenya Red Cross, Centre for Health Solutions, USAID Imarisha Jamii, International Rescue Committee and Lodwar Hills Hospital.

By Peter Gitonga

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