New TB challenges in Daru

Angus Morgan

22 March, 2017

Image: (L-R) Dr Pilar Ustero Alonso, Dr Kudakwashe Chani, and Marie Reyes

With almost two decades of public health experience in Africa, Australia and the Pacific, the new team leader of Burnet’s Reducing the Impact of Drug-resistant Tuberculosis (RID-TB) program in Papua New Guinea (PNG) understands the challenge of his new appointment.

Dr Kudakwashe Chani is based in Daru, Western Province, where the rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), including extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) are among the highest recorded globally at a sub-national level.

With fellow new starters, technical coordinator, Dr Pilar Ustero Alonso, and implementation coordinator, Marie Reyes, Dr Chani’s brief is to build on existing strategies to mitigate the TB epidemic, and care for the people affected.

“We recognise that a lot has already been achieved in Daru by previous teams, so we’re not starting from scratch, but bringing new and complimentary skills to bear in the response,” Dr Chani said.

“Marie worked on Ebola in Sierra Leone and in West Africa, so she brings that experience in terms of containing major outbreaks, and ‘Piluca’ has a lot of experience in managing and treating TB and drug-resistant TB.

“She will play a big role in setting up systems with the medical team which is there to make sure that we provide quality care, but also to develop more sustainable systems to last beyond the emergency period.

“I bring experience in health systems strengthening in Africa in HIV programs, but also TB with governments, faith-based institutions, NGOs and I realise that in Daru we have an interplay of all these different sectors.

“I think the three of us complement each other in terms of skills.”

Dr Chani said that while PNG shares attributes with many of the environments he’s experienced in Africa, the country’s vastness; problems of accessibility and hundreds of different ethnic groups present a unique challenge.

He said it would be important to adopt a long-term view of the fight against DR-TB, which is a major public health threat with enormous health, social and economic costs to the people of Western Province.

“The initial phase will be more an emergency response, making sure we halt the transmission of TB and drug-resistant TB, which is currently largely patient to patient,” Dr Chani said.

“Then once we are able to halt transmission, we need to make sure we build systems that prevent this problem from recurring in the future.”

Supported by the Australian Government, Burnet is the technical lead in the RID-TB Program working in close partnership with the Western Provincial Health Office (PHO), Daru General Hospital (DGH), National Department of Health (NDoH), World Vision and the World Health Organization (WHO).

To find out more about Burnet’s TB program in Western Province, click here.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Burnet Institute

[email protected]




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