24 March - Manzini, Swaziland - The Prime Minister of Swaziland, Sibusiso Dlamini, has declared tuberculosis (TB) a national emergency.
Swaziland has one of the highest rates of TB infection in the world with more than one in every hundred people becoming ill with the disease every year.
Speaking at a World TB Day event, the Prime Minister said that the declaration expressed the country's concern about the gravity of the situation and committed the government to intensifying the fight against TB and the TB/HIV dual pandemic.
"TB has proven to be a formidable adversary," he told the Swaziland Observer. "It is very much a moving target, not least through the emergence of new drug-resistant strains as well as through its close link with HIV. But we are committed to developing strategies to control the TB epidemic while improving our case detection and treatment success rates.
"Today’s declaration will also send an important signal to potential donors of technical and financial assistance."
Since Swaziland has adopted the WHO Stop TB strategy the country has made a significant progress in expanding access to high quality TB diagnosis, treatment and care.
The WHO's Country Representative, Dr Owen Kaluwa, said that the WHO was pleased to note the high level of political commitment demonstrated by the country’s government in addressing TB, TB/HIV and MDR-TB epidemic faced by the country.
"The programme has witnessed improvement in cases detected and treatment success rate as well as making life saving interventions like HIV testing and making anti-retroviral therapy available to TB patients," he said. "I would like to thank the government for the sustained commitment towards addressing the major health challenges affecting the country, mainly the prevailing dual epidemic of HIV and TB."
In his address, the Prime Minister acknowledged the commitment of its development partners; the WHO, the Global Fund and US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and various non governmental organizations (NGOs) and bilateral and multilateral partners.