The truth is that as a society, we have the technology and capability to save millions from tuberculosis (TB), but the financial support for it makes the death rate from TB unacceptably high.
Lately, the Zika Virus has been prevalent in the news. It’s the hype that has everyone worried, but in places like Haiti, the community faces diseases, such as tuberculosis, that are far worse. In the US, people’s thoughts about TB have mostly slipped away. But in many countries, it cannot so easily be forgotten. In 2014, the World Health Organization declared that 9.4 million people fell ill with the disease, and 1.5 million died from it.
“The decreasing funding for TB control makes it increasingly difficult to meet our goals,” emphasizes Dr. Josette Bijou, International Child Care Haiti National Director.
The disease is treatable and somewhat preventable, but more financial assistance is needed. That is why World Tuberculosis Day has come about—to spread awareness of the disease and reach out for more support.
Grace Children’s Hospital Efforts to Fight TB
In 1967, Grace Children’s Hospital was instituted specifically to care for children with tuberculosis. In the last fifty years, the reach has expanded but International Child Care (ICC) still continues to vaccinate and treat TB.
“ICC/Grace Children’s Hospital is recognized as one of the premier organizations in the fight against TB in Haiti,” says Dr. Bijou. Recently in 2015, Caribbean Biotechnologies, Inc. (CBT) asked the hospital to collaborate on clinical studies on a new way to detect TB. Now being used at the hospital, this new technology can detect TB instantly with a non-invasive instrument instead of having to wait days for results.
“Grace Children’s Hospital was highly recommended by the US Center for Disease Control because of their pro-active TB program and dedicated and experience personnel,” explained Dr. Jorge E. Gonzalez, president of CBT. “This proved very correct after several meetings with Dr. Bijou and her staff.”
Dr. Bijou, ICC Haiti National Director
“I am inspired about how we care for our patients,” comments Dr. Bijou. “Our patients often travel long distances to come to ICC because of the care they receive here.”
But the truth is that many more do not get the help they need that saves their lives. Haiti has the highest incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in the Western Hemisphere, and the disease is the second highest cause of mortality in children and adults in the country, second to HIV/AIDs.
Malnourishment and poor living conditions increase the chance of contracting highly contagious diseases, placing many Haitians at high risk. Now, as Haiti enters its fourth harvest season in drought, Haitians continue to see an increase in extreme food insecurity, doubling in just the past six months, and causing many children and families to go hungry. This weakens the immune system and creates even more susceptibility to contracting TB for it to continue to spread throughout the country.
World Tuberculosis Day and How You Can Help
On March 24 of 1882, Dr. Robert Koch discovered the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. Now, March 24 is commemorated is a day to raise awareness of tuberculosis and show that effective actions can be taken. WHO reports that worldwide about 43 million lives have been saved from TB since 2000.
You can help us eradicate tuberculosis in Haiti by sharing information with family and friends and financially supporting ICC’s efforts to administer vaccines and treat patients with tuberculosis. On this World Tuberculosis Day, don't sit in silence.