COVID-19 has ravaged the Eastern Cape, claiming more than 11 000 lives in the province. At the same time, tuberculosis remained a huge problem.

The TB survey conducted in 2018 found the disease present in 737 out of every 100 000 people. Statistics from 2015 showed the Eastern Cape to be the province with the highest prevalence of TB.

And now a sharp increase in infections in the Ntabankulu area of the province has raised a red flag.

Ntabankulu is nestled in the rural heartland of the Eastern Cape. But despite its natural beauty, poverty bites deep here. Infectious diseases like TB also run rampant.

The lack of access to health care is a contributing factor. People are defaulting on their TB treatment. The provincial government is stepping in.

Tuberculosis remains a huge problem in the Eastern Cape: 

Health MEC, Nomakhosazana Meth says, “We have since discovered that numbers are rising in children that are younger than 16 – who are defaulting their TB treatment. That is exposing them to XDR and MDR. So we are saying let’s end TB within our communities, so we are saying to our people they must come back and take their treatment. Nobody is going to fight with them.”

The outreach brought health care to the people living in the rural outskirts of Ntabankulu.

Villager Maxaba Tshewana says, “I am happy that these services have been brought closer to us. I am suffering from chest pains, legs and my waist is soaring. So I hope that I will be assisted by the doctors.”

Another villager, Maphelo Ntlangula says, “I am excited because I have come here for vaccination. We have been hearing about it, but today we are here we need vaccination so that we can be protected from COVID-19 and other diseases.”

The comprehensive intervention related to TB and HIV/AIDS in the Alfred Nzo region has been welcomed.

Eastern Cape Aids Council Secretary, Vuyisile Dlayile explains, “We are very concerned that the statistics are high and the TB prevalence in this area of Ntabankulu. We are very excited that at least this intervention is taking place here so that the TB programme is addressing it. We are very unfortunate that we have five provinces that are TB prone. I am happy we are dealing with it.”

The Health Department is encouraging people to consult health professionals when they fall ill. TB claimed 58 000 South African lives in 2019.