TB Accountability Consortium

TB Accountability Consortium

TB in South Africa’s children: what needs to be done

Tackling TB in children is one of the issues that received much needed  discussion at the eighth SA TB Conference in Durban. 

According to a 2020 article on TB prevalence, incidence, and prevention, children living with HIV accounted for 7% of South Africa’s reported 328,000 TB cases in children under 15. In addition, a World Health Organization article indicates that the global situation is even more alarming, with 1.3 million children falling ill with TB worldwide in 2022.

At the conference, the TB Accountability Consortium spoke to Dr Juli Switala about TB in children. 

Switala said the staggering 54,000 TB-related deaths in South Africa’s statistics are likely an underestimation, as children are often excluded from these numbers. In a disturbing trend, TB is frequently overlooked as the cause of death on children’s death certificates, making it challenging to advocate for the true extent of the issue.

When asked about what the government needed to do, she said healthcare professionals and the government must work together to facilitate early diagnosis of TB in children. In her anecdotal evidence, she emphasized that by the time kids with TB reach her treatment center, they often have advanced cases accompanied by other severe health issues.

Dr. Switala highlighted the challenges in diagnosing TB, citing cases where parents have visited healthcare facilities multiple times before receiving a proper diagnosis.

“The responsibility is to listen to their caregivers. If they say something’s wrong, they know something’s wrong. They know what’s not normal with their children,” she noted on the course of action for healthcare providers.

The alarming rate of TB in children highlights the urgent need for effective interventions in the country of not only strengthened diagnostic methods but the call on inclusion of children in dealing with the scourge of TB.