It’s time to re-think our priorities

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WE have many reasons to rejoice over the news that Lesotho has achieved gains in the war against the deadly tuberculosis (TB) disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Global TB Report 2017 revels that Lesotho has achieved a seven percent decline in TB incidence rates since 2010.

Seven percent in seven years, when considered from a mathematical perspective, translates to an average 1 percent reduction per year in TB incidence rates since 2010.

This looks very insignificant but when one considers that this is the second highest reduction rate among the so-called TB burden countries after Zimbabwe’s 11 percent, then surely we have every reason to celebrate.

Other high TB burden countries that have registered a decline are Kenya (6.9 percent), Ethiopia (6.9 percent), the United Republic of Tanzania (6.7 percent), Namibia (6 percent), Zambia (4.8 percent) and the Russian Federation (4.5 percent).

And why not when according to the WHO website, TB causes ill-health in approximately 10 million people each year and it is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide.

WHO says that for the past five years, TB has been the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent, ranking above HIV/AIDS.

So we should happy with any gains recorded against the deadly scourge no matter how small.

If not for that reason, then perhaps for the simple reason that any positive story is worth celebrating given that ours is a country where there is a relentless outpouring of doom and gloom stories.

But our joy must be tempered by the sobering reality that there is still a long road ahead and we need to redouble our efforts before we can count ourselves as truly safe from the deadly pandemic.

The same report that has occasioned our joy also states that Lesotho remains among the world’s top 30 burdened countries for TB for the period 2016–2020.

The report states that Lesotho is among those countries with the lowest levels of treatment coverage of 50percent or less.

Other countries listed in this category are Indonesia, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania.

Broader influences on the TB epidemic include poverty, HIV infection, undernutrition and smoking.

“The risk of developing TB in the 37 million people living with HIV was 21 times higher than the risk in the rest of the world population (range, 16–27). The relative risk increases as the prevalence of HIV in the general population decreases.

“Drug-resistant TB is a continuing threat. In 2016, there were 600 000 new cases with resistance to rifampicin (RRTB), the most effective first-line drug, of which 490 000 had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).”

Clearly, the war against TB will not won without winning other daunting wars against other scourges including poverty and HIV/AIDS.

Despite all the advances we have made, we remain second to Swaziland in the world when it comes to the HIV incidence.

It is to these challenges that we must dedicate our resources. It is to these that we must dedicate our time.

Sadly much of our resources, time and personnel have been dedicated to frequent elections and the attendant instability that this breeds.

For the longest time we have paid lip service to these fundamental concerns and if we sought to be honest with ourselves, then we would have to admit that even those gains we have made in the fight against TB, HIV/AIDS and poverty have been achieved largely because of the intervention of our external development partners.

We shudder to imagine where we would be without their active support.

We need to examine ourselves in the mirror and re-think our priorities.

At the risk of repeating clichés, we have to say that future generations will not forgive us if we do not get our priorities right as a nation.

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Lesotho’s widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa.

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