The 2013 Malawi Tuberculosis prevalence survey findings suggest that about 50% of TB cases in the country remain undetected. The survey concluded that the case finding strategies that the country is employing are wanting as there is a glaring gap between TB prevalence and TB notification rate. The study therefore recommended that case-finding activities be enhanced through expanded access to diagnostic services, and improved TB screening tools and algorithms.
It is with this in mind that the Government of Malawi through the Southern Africa TB and Health Systems Support Project proposed innovative ways that would enhance case detection in the districts the Project is being implemented. One such approach is to promote and support community awareness campaigns in areas with mining activities.
The campaigns involve the provision of information on general information related to TB ranging from how TB is transmitted, how TB is treated and prevented including its signs and symptoms. The meetings also provided a forum to demystify myths around the disease. To add value to the campaigns, special tables manned by health workers with support from community sputum collection point volunteers are set. These tables help those who freely want to submit their sputum for testing.
Rumphi district is one such district where this approach has been adopted and put to full use. The district held 12 awareness campaigns in March 2017. These meetings resulted in 65 Presumptive TB cases submitting their sputum for testing. “The results have motivated us as a district to make full use of these campaigns as one way of reaching out to people and having them get tested” echoed Mr. Kenan Mfune, the District Focal Point person for the Project in Rumphi. It is anticipated that more people will be reached and will submit their sputum for testing in successive campaigns.