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Lethal allies

The Reporter (Addis Ababa)
December 27, 1999
by Tewedaj Kebede

Addis Ababa - Nowadays the three pandemic diseases - Tuberculosis (TB), Malaria and HIV/AIDS - have become the major killers in our world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), TB kills 2 to 3 million people every year in the world, while seven to eight million people are infected each year. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, the occurrence of TB cases per year has reached nearly 2 million, WHO indicated.

In Ethiopia, TB kills some 45,000 people every year, according to the Ministry of Health. The present infection rate has reached about 90,000 in the country.

Meanwhile, HIV/AIDS which has infected more than 3 million people in Ethiopia is accelerating the spread of TB, WHO says, and that most TB patients tested for HIV are found to be HIV positive. Hence, these synergistic diseases - "TB-HIV co-epidemic" - are actively destroying the nation.

On the other hand, WHO statistics shows that there are about 300 to 500 million people in the world who are infected by malaria. Among these, the WHO noted that around 2.7 million people die every year and 90 percent of the infection is in Sub-Saharan Africa alone. According to WHO, one African child dies of the epidemic every five seconds and most of the children are under the age of five.

In Ethiopia also, the Ministry of Health indicated that around 40 million Ethiopians are at risk of malaria infection. There are about 1.5 million people infected by malaria every year, it said. The disease, the Ministry said, mainly affects the country's rural population. Although Addis Ababa is considered to be a "malaria free zone," the Ministry stressed that some areas around rural areas and Bole, where the altitude is above 2000 meters, are at risk of the disease.

Aiming to combat these killer diseases, the Equatorial Business Group (EBG) in co-operation with Becton Dickinson, an American based organization which produces and sells medical equipment world wide, organized a half-day seminar. Highly experienced intellectuals and health professionals from the six regional health centers, hospitals, institutions and from abroad participated on 16 December at the Sheraton Addis.

The objective of the conference, according to Ato Tibebe Argaw, General Manager of EBG, was to help professionals fulfill their responsibility on these "critical health problems currently facing our country where the whole population is menaced, threatened and harassed." In addition, he said, it will also assist the professionals to raise awareness and share experiences so as to look for possible ways on how to prevent and even eliminate these killer diseases from our country. New medical products for these killer diseases were exhibited at this seminar.

The exhibition, according to the Pharmaceutical and Medical Supplies office of the EBG, is the first of its kind in Ethiopia. It was learnt that some of the equipment was new to the country. Though expensive, these easy-to-use supplies are believed to be valuable where there is no electric power or skilled manpower, the Pharmaceutical and Medical Supplies of EBG said. "Parasignt F", for example, is used for rapid malaria testing, and "CBACTEC 460 TB System" is for rapid automated TB results.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Reporter. Distributed via Africa News Online ( For information about the content or for permission to redistribute, publish or use for broadcast, contact the publisher.

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