DUSHANBE -- The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) will launch an important new phase of life-saving food assistance to Tuberculosis (TB) patients in Tajikistan, along with their family members, with the goal of building on past successes in increasing cure rates and lowering death rates from the disease.
WFP will begin a three-year US$7 million project in January 2011 under which a food package of wheat flour, vegetable oil, split peas and salt will be given to every TB patient registered under the Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course (DOTS) programme. A parallel ration will go to the patient’s family members to help them through the period when their breadwinner is unable to work because of the illness.
The food serves two purposes: it helps the patients ravaged by the disease to build up their strength and nutritional levels. In a few months of nutritious meals, they gain weight and are in much better shape to fight the disease. The food also acts as a powerful incentive for them to complete the six-month drug treatment plan that will cure them of TB. WFP gives the patients the food on condition they take their pills every day under the DOTS programme.
“This project gives WFP a significant new opportunity to make a ground-breaking contribution to the campaign to Stop TB in Tajikistan,” said WFP Deputy Country Director Heather Hill. “We know that many patients stop taking the pills because their weak bodies have great difficulty absorbing them. If they interrupt the treatment, they risk getting multi-drug resistant TB, which is much harder and more expensive to cure.
“But patients are far more willing to come to the TB clinic every day to take their pills if they know they will get the WFP food ration every two months, and that their families will receive food at the same time.”
The project consolidates and expands the TB support programmes WFP has been operating in Tajikistan since 2003. TB is closely linked with poverty and food insecurity and incurs a heavy economic burden on the country.
However, statistics from the National TB Centre for 2007 show that the treatment success rate for TB patients receiving WFP food was 89 percent whereas the rate for patients who did not get food was 77percent. A 2005 study by Project Hope showed that number of people cured of TB was 25 percent higher if they had received food and the treatment completion rate was 40 percent higher.
WFP has been working in a successful partnership with the Tajik National TB Centre, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) and the international NGO Project Hope since 2007. Through this collaboration, WFP expanded its assistance from 11 TB centres to the centres in all 64 districts of the country.
Tajikistan has the highest TB incidence in Western and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus and the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Each year, on average, WFP feeds more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries.