TB REACH kick-starts sustained efforts to free Gambia’s children from TB

30 September 2013 - Banjul, The Gambia - Funding from the Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH programme has provided the foundations for a long-term effort to find and treat children with tuberculosis (TB) in The Gambia.

Following the award of a TB REACH grant 15 months ago, the Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit in The Gambia launched the Reach4kids project in coastal areas around the capital Banjul. The project aimed to identify children who had TB or were at risk of contracting the disease from other members of the household.

Many families who are vulnerable to TB live in poverty and know little about the disease and how to obtain care for it. Often, when an adult is diagnosed with TB, no attempt is made to find out whether children in the household also have the disease.

The Gambia project turned that around, screening more than 1700 children for TB and providing isoniazid preventive therapy to more than 500 children who were at risk of getting ill with TB. Any children found to have active TB are referred to the national TB programme (NTP) for treatment.

These successes have attracted further funding from the MRC (UK) which will support an additional five years of operations, expansion into other areas of The Gambia and research into the use of TB diagnostics among children.

"The concept of TB as a family disease is now well established," says Professor Beate Kampmann who is leading the project and the team at the MRC. "The families are very engaged and the reception in the community is excellent. Now we want to have a long-lasting lasting impact on the management of childhood TB in The Gambia."

The project is managed in close collaboration with the NTP. The MRC team developed a tailored training programme for NTP staff and has now trained more than 100 health care workers on how to recognize, diagnose and manage childhood TB.