World TB Day

March 24th was World TB Day, sounds like a happy event!

But as someone here pointed out, TB is not something to celebrate. Oh yeah, almost forgot. But it’s good there is a day for it, because we really need to do some awareness raising. ‘Fatal Neglect’ is an apt term - if you haven’t seen the video made by Ron Haviv here in our project last fall, please check it out.

Because World TB Day fell square in the middle of the spring festival Navruz, we are postponing the marking of the day until April 3rd. We will have a ceremony - though not a celebration – by inviting many people to the Pediatric TB Hospital and officially opening the new facilities we have set up there: over the past year-and-a-half our logistics department  have succeeded in building an MDR ward, a sputum induction room, a diagnostic room and a laboratory.

The entrance to the Pediatric TB hospital © Terry Porsild

The entrance to the Pediatric TB hospital © Terry Porsild

The MoH is grateful to us but struggling hard to find the staff needed for the extra work - nurses are paid appallingly low salaries and have incredibly long shifts in poor working conditions. Not all of them welcomed the training in sputum induction as it simply means another job in their already tiring day. Lab techs face a similar challenge, though for different reasons. The point is to diagnose DR-TB in children earlier and quicker, so they can get proper treatment. Hopefully that means more patients - whoops! – we just created  even more work for them… it’s a complicated business, this battle with TB. There are so many conflicting interests.

Happily we can also truly have a celebration though: the first patient in our program to finish her DR-TB treatment will take her last meds at the end of March – almost coinciding with World TB Day. She is a lovely, smart, teenage girl who is preparing for university. She recently went to Kazakhstan for a math competition and won 3rd place. She is doing very well and we are very proud to have been able to provide the drugs and the support that have helped her along.

We hope that she will cut the ribbon to open the lab. I’m going to miss the happenings, as I’m going home for a short holiday, but hopefully the others will take some pictures and I can tell you more in the next blog.