“I have a heart for my community.” Tuberculosis prevention this World TB Day.
This World Tuberculosis Day, we’re celebrating community health volunteers like Alex who are fighting for a healthier future for young people in his village.
Alex is a champion for his community. He is part of a team of community health volunteers preventing tuberculosis, treating and reducing its spread among children and young people in his home village in Papua New Guinea (PNG). In fact, he’s been volunteering for nearly 15 years.
Globally, TB is one of the leading causes of death, and for children and families in PNG, the rate of infection is significantly higher than average. But tuberculosis is preventable and when identified early, it is curable. Every year there are approximately 36,000 new cases per year in PNG and 25% of these cases are children.
In Kivori, a remote community three hours north of Port Moresby, community health volunteers are vital to identifying TB in children in his community and that they can access the right treatment.
Alex says, “We look for children that might be suspected cases of TB and then we collect samples to be tested at a nearby health station. We look out for the symptoms like lots of coughing. We also do a lot of awareness with the community and run TB clinics every 2-3 weeks where we can explain the signs and symptoms to people.”
As 80% of Papua New Guineans live in remote areas, many must travel long distances to the nearest health centres for treatment.
ChildFund Papua New Guinea (CFPNG) has supported community health volunteers in Kivori with training on health advocacy, explaining TB, preventing tuberculosis, how to treat it and managing cases in their community. Alex said that the biggest thing that this training has done is boost his confidence and given him authority in his community.
“I feel like, I am good at my job now and the community, they listen to us and trust us.”
He is passionate about the health of his community and helping to reduce the prevalence of TB. “It’s my community so I really want to volunteer. I have a heart for my community and that is why I do this.”
Having new cases every year means that transmission of this disease is happening in families, communities and schools. Alex says that more needs to be done to prevent the spread of tuberculosis. “I hope that in the future we can reduce the number of TB cases in our community.”
Olive Oa, Health Program Manager CFPNG said: “We need to improve the capacity of health workers at every health centre. Right now, 80% of the health workforce is community health volunteers. All health facilities undertaking TB work should be supported with the right training, communication and solar power that can provide basic microscopy testing, lighting, and electricity.”
“In the Central Province, TB is still very common in the communities and health centres we work in. Here, there are 15 health centres that diagnose and support patients who test positive for TB. All 15 health centres have at least one staff trained to care for and manage TB patients. ChildFund works in six health facilities in the surrounding area,” she said.
With the right access to health facilities and early treatment, tuberculosis can be prevented, managed and cured. Learn more about how ChildFund Papua New Guinea is working with partners and communities to reduce the spread of TB.
You can also help to prevent the spread of tuberculosis by donating monthly to ChildFund Australia. You’ll help to give 1,000 children a better life and health outcomes, including protection from deadly diseases through vaccination.