Conducting integrated TB/HIV/COVID-19 screening among internally displaced populations in Tigray

 {Photo credit: MSH staff}Internal displaced people being screened for TB, COVID-19, and HIV in 1 of the 10 centers for internally displaced people in Mekelle, Tigray.Photo credit: MSH staff

The major conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region is affecting the functionality of the region’s health system, impacting everything from human resources to infrastructure. TB services are no exception. TB client follow-up has been disrupted, and many facilities have been damaged, including laboratory diagnostic equipment like microscopes and GeneXpert machines. The capacity to ensure service continuity and collect monitoring and evaluation data has been compromised.

The USAID Eliminate TB Project, which supports TB elimination efforts in the Tigray region, is currently working with local stakeholders and partners to create a strategy to resume TB activities in a phased approach.

Through the Tigray regional team, the project has supported rapid situational assessments to identify gaps and solutions. This includes accessing basic TB diagnostic services for patients and communities, linking patients to care for continuity of TB treatment services, inventorying stock of TB drugs and commodities, and supporting data collection and reporting.

One key finding from the assessment was the increasing number of internally displaced people (IDP) moving from the conflict-stricken area to the capital city of the Tigray region, Mekelle. The assessment identified ten IDPs centers created throughout the city. In addition to humanitarian assistance, integrated screening for communicable diseases, such as TB, HIV, and COVID-19, was identified as a solution.

Coordinating with the Tigray Regional Health Bureau, project staff initiated, planned, and conducted an integrated mass TB, HIV, and COVID-19 screening campaign among IDPs in Mekelle. Between March 12 and 25, a total of 1,252,087 IDPs from the 10 IDP centers were screened in the mass campaign. During the screening, no TB cases were identified, two people tested HIV positive, and eight people tested positive for COVID-19. Everyone was directed to health providers for appropriate treatment.