Dr. Firdosi R Mehta is Senior adviser and visiting professor in public health, Mississauga, Canada, and WHO representative to Sri Lanka.
In 1986 FINDA (Finish International Development Agency) conducted a Tuberculin survey in Kismayo, Burao and a refugee health unit in Somalia. The results for children over 10 years showed a high annual risk of infection – 3.66%, 3.08% and 4.9%. In a refugee camp in 1989, 3 of all adult deaths were due to TB. In two camps in eastern Sudan in 1990, 38% and 50% of all adult deaths were from TB. During 1999, 4784 cases of TB (all forms) were reported. During 1995, 1996, 1997 & 1998, 2504, 3920, 4450 & 4320 cases were reported. Somalia has one of the highest incidence rates of TB in the world. Each year, around 12,000 sputum positive cases occur, yet only 3 are detected and receive treatment in supervised programs.
TB can be considered a major public health problem in Somalia, affecting the most productive age groups of the community. Tuberculosis presents an endemic phenomenon in Somalia, becoming one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality. Aside from security, TB in Somalia has become the greatest barrier to stability and economic development. More so, the civil war has effected an unprecedented collapse of the national TB Control Program.
The TB program in Somalia was supported in its initial stages by FINDA , and following this, by WHO in collaboration with International NGOs.