The National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory, being funded by Partners in Health, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, was officially launched on the 05th February 2013 at Bots’abelo in Maseru district. The function was beautified by the presence of the Right Honorable Prime Minister, Dr. Motsoahae Thomas Thabane, government ministers including the Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Pinkie Manamolela, United Nations, Diplomatic corps and Non-Governmental Organizations Representatives, media and community at large.
Speaking at the ceremony, Dr. Thabane indicated that Lesotho has the highest TB incidences with 454 out of 100,000 people being infected by the disease and the low treatment outcome of 70% is far below the 87% global target due to weak diagnosis and late detection of the infection. The Prime Minister emphasized that there is a need to intensify the fight against TB as no Lesotho citizen should die of TB.
Dr. Thabane stressed that individuals should also play a role in helping lower the prevalence rate of TB since the government and various other partners already worked together towards enhancing the prevention, diagnosis, care and treatment. The Right Honorable Prime Minister further urged all who were present to put aside their political differences and work together to defeat the disease as all people deserve good health irrespective of who they are and where they belong. The Prime Minister made a plea to health professionals to increase their commitment towards implementing the health for all principle and kindly urged Dr. Pinkie Manamolela, the Honorable Minister of Health to spend more time in treating patients.
“We hope the laboratory will help with the strengthening of diagnosis and ensuring early treatment while encouraging those diagnosed with TB to adhere to treatment”, said Dr. Thabane.
The co-founder of Partner in Health, Professor Paul Farmer, when officially handing over the National TB Reference Lab to the Ministry of Health, indicated that investment in the TB laboratory was inspired by the need to strengthen health system in the country.
Professor Farmer emphasized that various stakeholders emerged in the world in response to the revolving TB whose impact and nature changes as economies transform and such changes call for investment and collaboration towards building capacities and infrastructure which can help improve prevention, diagnosis, care and treatment. He pointed out that the “state of the art” TB laboratory is the second of that quality, after South Africa to be opened in Southern Africa.
In his statement, WHO Representative to Lesotho, Dr. Jacob Mufunda, indicated that World Health Organization declared tuberculosis when a global emergency in 1993, where approximately one third of the world population was infected with the disease and as a result, the Stop TB strategy was developed to control the disease. Dr. Mufunda further emphasized that Global Laboratory Initiative (GLI) was inaugurated and given the mandate to strengthen tuberculosis laboratories services globally with the recognition of the role of the laboratory in tuberculosis control.
“In order to ensure efficient and effective tuberculosis laboratory services, national ownership and leadership; human and financial capacity as well as quality assurance are essential”, Urged Dr. Mufunda.
He emphasized that through strong political commitment and collaboration, quality assured TB diagnostic capacity, including current methods, in a resource-limited setting is being established. Dr. Mufunda concluded that WHO shall support the process of accreditation of this TB national reference laboratory through the Global Laboratory Initiative for which guidance has been developed to help national level laboratories meet international standards.