Ethiopia Celebrates Impressive Gains in the Fight against TB

Left to right: Dr. Daniel Gemechu, Regional Director for CTB/Ethiopia , Dr. Ahmed Bedru, Country Director for CTB/Ethiopia , Mr. Taye Letta, National TB Program Manager, Dr. Liya Tadesse, State Minister of Health, Dr. Kitty van Weezenbeek, Executive Director of KNCV and Dr. Pedro Suarez, Senior Director, Infectious Disease Cluster at MSH.

At last week’s end of project ceremony, the USAID-funded Challenge TB project celebrated improvements in Ethiopia’s ability to save lives by detecting, diagnosing, and treating TB more effectively.

Under this five-year program, USAID invested $42 million to improve the quality of TB care and prevention services, enabling patients to receive better access to treatment and medication to fight the disease. 

TB deaths have dropped significantly as treatment success rates rose above 90%, with 75% of those suffering from multidrug-resistant TB now able to beat the disease after completing their medication regimens.

“The success of this project lies in the long-term partnership and extensive collaboration between local government and our partners,” said Pedro Suarez, MSH’s Challenge TB Project Director.

MSH has a long history of work in Ethiopia, supporting the country’s fight for TB eradication, contributing to foundational health system improvements, and strengthening the capabilities of health workers to protect people from diseases while improving their health and wellbeing. 

Challenge TB worked closely with the Ministry of Health and regional health bureaus across the country to strengthen the national TB program. The project focused on improving the capacity of health workers to detect TB, provide more accurate diagnoses, and prescribe medications in a timely fashion to help patients begin immediate treatment and increase their chance of survival.

For example, the project implemented TB contact investigation at multiple levels of the health system using blended learning approaches to build the capacity of TB program officers and clinicians, introducing new pediatric TB drug formulations, reaching key affected populations, and expanding ambulatory care to treat drug-resistant TB (DR-TB). 

To address DR-TB, Challenge TB implemented ambulatory care for DR-TB cases by expanding treatment initiating centers and treatment follow-up centers to ensure access. The global average achievement of DR-TB treatment success was 55%—Ethiopia surpassed it and achieved 75%. The NTP is currently using shorter treatment regimens and implementing new drugs at varying scale in the regions of the country.

Dr. Lia Kebede, State Minister of Health of the Federal Ministry of Health of Ethiopia, expressed her appreciation for USAID’s partnership and support and commended the contributions of health care workers and the community in making the project a success. She emphasized the importance of continued support.

Challenge TB was implemented by KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation with MSH and the World Health Organization (WHO) and in partnership with the Ministry of Health. The United States is the largest bilateral provider of support to Ethiopia’s health sector, with approximately $150 million per year in funding for TB; HIV/AIDS; malaria; maternal, neonatal, and child health; nutrition; and water, sanitation, and hygiene. Overall, the United States has provided approximately $4 billion in development and humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia over the past five years.