Collaborative TB childhood advocacy work closer to people counts
This advocacy strategy has helped stakeholders who were convened to foster partnerships and collaboration within their districts, writes Owen Nyaka.
Living with people and neighbours who are sidelining you because of having Tuberculosis (TB) causes psychological damage and often derails better TB treatment outcomes and lack of awareness of pediatric TB among families and this is manifested into the misconception that people associate TB with HIV.
However, in order to ensure greater awareness and commitment, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS (EGPAF) in partnership with the Facilitator of Community Transformation (FACT) led various sensitizations on childhood TB.
This initiative which is under EGPAF’s Catalyzing Pediatric TB innovation (CaP TB) project in partnership with the Ministry of Health (MoH) with funding from UNITAID has contributed to changing people’s attitude towards TB.
Country Implementation Manager for CaP TB Project, Yusuf Bhamu said they have been convening Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s) and affected communities such as women groups, community advocates, HSAs, and DTO were convened to get oriented and discuss areas of concern in pediatric TB with a focus on screening, diagnosis and TB preventive therapy for childcare for effective advocacy strategy development.
This advocacy strategy has helped the stakeholders that were convened to foster partnerships and collaboration within their districts to help in creating opportunities in lobbying for the prioritization of childhood TB interventions within district health teams’ budgets and plans, as well as identifying resourcing gaps, and potential NGOs stakeholders who can take up challenges.
“This has subsequently led to an in-depth analysis of the resource and policy implementation needs of TB and utilization of opportunities within the districts of scaling up TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment interventions to reach the missing cases within the communities with a critical focus on Children and household contacts,” says Bhamu, adding that this orientation has been implemented in 7 districts; namely Chiradzulu, Mwanza, Blantyre, Thyolo, Ntcheu, Dedza, and Machinga.
The target was to train 10 CSO’s and affected communities per district; bringing the total to 70 oriented.
There has been also an orientation of media houses on TPT and 3HP in the management of Child TB. A total of 15 media houses were oriented on COVID-19, Childhood TB policies, 3RH and TPT, and existing policy implementation challenges.
EGPAF Communications Officer, Prince Henderson says some of the notable media houses that were oriented were Times Television, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), Nation Publications, and Zodiak.
Henderson says the aim of this orientation was to guide the media houses to better understand the gaps that exist in childhood TB management, 3HP, and TPT. This has better-informed radio and media publicity, hence generating necessary public sensitization.
“It has been anticipated that through the media TB policy orientation sessions, the level of understanding of the current implementation challenges has been enhanced within the media fraternity and thus generating public interest to demand quality and equitable TB services for Children and People affected by TB, resulting into closing the gap in finding and treating the missing TB cases,” says Henderson.
Facilitators of Community Transformation (FACT) Public Relations and Communications Officer Wanangwa Sichinga concur with Henderson saying his organization also worked with the media houses during the orientation sessions to develop a public sensitization roadmap that has been rolled out by each media house that was engaged.
As the CaP TB project phased out last month, Sichinga said the local CSO’s and media have been oriented on the Fundamentals of TB, the current pediatric TPT regimen (3RH), TPT policy, TB statistics, current challenges on TB management in Malawi, monitoring and advocacy strategy, and the role of media houses in management of TB, which includes working hand in hand with organisations that are implementing TB interventions in the country in publishing articles that have generated interest in quality TB services.
“It is anticipated that the quality of information disseminated during the orientation sessions was adequate to scale up advocacy of quality and comprehensive pediatric TB services,” says Sichinga.
In order to sustain childhood TB advocacy, FACT has rolled out a Community Led Monitoring (CLM) tool during orientation sessions with CSOs and affected groups in developing an advocacy and monitoring strategy for pediatric TB and TPT policy. CLM entails that communities are at the forefront of tracking and assessment of TB services, such as accessibility, availability, and quality of the services.
Suggestions, observations, and concerns are incorporated in the CLM tool, which is used by representatives of the community, such as women groups and community advocates and there is an efficient referral system to health facilities through Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) and District TB Officers (DTOs), who were part of the orientations.
These advocacy issues emanate from the CLM tool and inform the district-level pediatric TB and TPT advocacy strategy.
Through this, participating groups are offered the opportunity to be a meaningful part of the CaP project and contribute to advocacy issues that they are facing on the ground.
This has enhanced ownership and due to this, the utilization of the CLM tool is poised to be utilized beyond the lifespan of the CaP project, thus ensuring sustainability.
A TB Policy Public Sensitization Roadmap was developed with media houses, which guides them on their sensitization strategies and makes modifications where necessary to adapt to changes, far beyond the lifespan of the CaP TB project, thereby ensuring sustainability.
Veena Sampathkumar, EGPAF Country Director is of the view that “we cannot win the battle against any infectious disease if we do not educate and sensitize the communities, the media, and the leaders”.
This can minimize sidelining one another because of having TB and the misconception that people have within our communities.