By Haruna Gimba
The World Bank has released $122 million to boost southern Africa’s capacity to initiate an effective regional response to Tuberculosis (TB) and occupational lung diseases.
The bank said in a statement in Lusaka, Zambia that the funds would be channeled to the Southern Africa Tuberculosis and Health System Support Project.
According to the statement, the fund which would target mining communities and regions with high prevalence rates of TB or HIV and AIDS, transport corridors and cross-border areas in Zambia, Lesotho, Malawi and Mozambique.
The statement mentioned that the primary beneficiaries of the project would be TB-affected individuals and households in line with its goal of supporting the most vulnerable by ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity.
It added that the project characterizes the strong commitment and leadership of the four countries in working across sectors and borders to address these health challenges, in addition to promoting the use of best-buy interventions and facilitates innovations and learning across countries.
Zambian Health Minister, Joseph Kasonde, said the project offered the country a unique opportunity to collaborate with neighbouring countries and regional partners to initiate a coordinated response to TB.
He said with the emerging global disease threats, the project would also position Zambia and the region to respond more effectively to other public health emergencies in addition to TB.
World Bank Country Director for Regional Integration, Moustapha Ndiaye, said the project would help the four countries build a truly regional response to an epidemic that knows no borders.
He stressed that the regional collaboration and the capacity for health systems to monitor, track and share information as well as timely respond to diseases was critical to effective TB control in a region which was at the epicentre of the dual TB and HIV and AIDS epidemic.
Ndiaye noted that the design of the project was drawn on existing country efforts and global lessons in TB control as well as the recent Ebola emergency in West Africa.
He said this demonstrated that collaboration and systems building could help countries to better respond to current and new disease threats.