This past Wednesday, March 24th Jessica, myself, and 13 of our nursing students (3 students are away doing rural outreach work this week) had the privilege of walking in the March for World TB day in Mongu, Zambia. This year Mongu gained the honour of being chosen as the site for the National Zambian world TB celebrations. Honoured guests included the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director and the Minister of Community Development – Mother and Child.
This was quite the experience. I have never marched for a cause and what I felt was truly a sense of empowerment. Hundreds of people joined in on the march, including school aged students, nursing students, nurses, marching bands and many other local groups and organizations. Following the march we got to observe several cultural performances that included traditional dancing, singing, and ‘dramatic acts.’ It was truly a pleasure to get to see how other countries come together to raise awareness about important causes.
The UBCO 2015 Nursing team in Zambia
World TB day happens each year in March. The aim of the day is to enhance public awareness of the ongoing epidemic of Tuberculosis that continues to impact many areas of the world. TB remains a major health challenge in Mongu and throughout Zambia. The high prevalence of TB in Zambia is largely the result of a number of factors, which includes high prevalence of HIV, low socio-economic status, inadequate housing, transit systems that lack adequate ventilation, and a health system that continues to fall behind on the resources needed for education, diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
Although we see TB in British Columbia it is not an epidemic, nor is it a leading cause of death in Canada, as over 95% of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (World Health Organization, 2015). According to the WHO, in relation to infectious diseases, TB is the greatest cause of mortality next to HIV worldwide. In 2013, 1.5 million of the 9 million people with documented new reports of TB died from the illness.
However there is progress; the death rates of TB from 1990-2013 has declined by 45% and approximately 37 million lives were saved through increased resource allocation, diagnosis, treatment and public awareness (WHO, 2015, Key facts).
After the celebration Jessica and I were invited to a luncheon with 200 local and out of town guests to complete the day. We had the opportunity to meet new people and re-connect with people we’ve met working here in the past. We truly see a solid partnership formed here with our Zambian colleagues. The day raised a lot of awareness and showed the great strengths and efforts Mongu has made to reduce the incidence and deaths caused by TB!
Jackie and Jess A.K.A. J&J