WHO brings new TB campaign to Chechnya
Timur Aliyev, North Caucasus - The World Health Organization (WHO) plans to expand its tuberculosis prevention programme to Chechnya, said Ute S. Underlein, WHO's health consultant for North Caucasus.
Up to now, said Underlein, WHO’s efforts to combat TB in North Caucasus have been targeted solely at the Chechen refugees residing in Ingushetia. Since 2001 WHO has run a prevention programme in Ingushetia based on a three-party agreement concluded with the Russian and Ingush health ministries.
WHO, which monitors the TB programme and provides medical equipment, has allocated $3 million for this work and set up an anti-TB dispensary in the municipal hospital of the Ingush town of Nazran.
The treatment strategy WHO has adopted is unique in the ex-Soviet region. Previously, TB patients had to be hospitalized for half a year. The new strategy enables patients to be released from in-patient facilities after two or three months so that they can continue medication at home under the supervision of a doctor or a medical worker.
Food packages are offered to the new outpatients as an incentive to adhere to the prescribed treatment regimen.
The approach allows WHO to target a larger group of TB patients by freeing up hospital beds.
No such treatment has ever been conducted in Chechnya proper, explained Underlein, since migration problems are still prevalent in the region, with no guarantees of patients following their treatment. Failure to adhere to the medication regimen until the end of the treatment allows the TB virus to become drug resistant, she added, which results in further complications.
There has been a sharp drop in the incidence of TB in Ingushetia over the past two years of the program, Underlein said.
Over 16,000 TB patients are registered at the dispensary, of whom roughly a thousand were TB patients in 2002, according to the information of the Chechen Health Ministry.