Remarks by USAID Health Office Director John Kuehnle During the Challenge Tuberculosis Zambia Close-Out Ceremony

Remarks by USAID Health Office Director John Kuehnle
Challenge Tuberculosis Zambia Close-Out Ceremony
Mulungushi Conference Center, Lusaka, Zambia
August 29, 2019

(as prepared for delivery)

The Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Chitalu Chilufya (MP)
The Permanent Secretary Technical Services, Ministry of Health, Dr. Kennedy Malama
Area Councilor of Chipata Compound, Mr. Joseph Tamba
Distinguished representatives from the Government of the Republic of Zambia
Friends from civil society and the private sector
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning. I am honored to be here on behalf of the United States government, and I bring you greetings from the U.S. Ambassador to Zambia, Daniel L. Foote, and the USAID Director, Sheryl Stumbras.

As we prepare for the culmination of the Challenge TB project, we congratulate our implementing partner, FHI-360, and the project staff, for their commitment to making this initiative a success. We thank the Government of the Republic of Zambia for their leadership and support for this initiative, and the Ministry of Health for its commitment to sustaining the positive steps we have taken together to fight TB in Zambia.

The United States believes every person, every community, and every country wants to be empowered to lead their own future.  Our programs are designed to support self-reliance, so we can walk alongside our friends on their development journey as evolving but enduring partners.  The Challenge TB project is as an example of this partnership, and our collective work to combat the devastating effects of TB have given us much to be proud of.

Challenge TB began two and a half years ago as part of USAID’s global initiative to improve access to high-quality, patient-centered TB services, prevent transmission and disease progression, and strengthen service-delivery platforms.  Implemented across the six provinces (Central, Copperbelt, Luapula, Muchinga, Northern, and Northwestern), the project saw significant improvements in drug-resistant TB case detection and treatment completion.

These accomplishments were made possible through the rapid scale up of the diagnostic platform: GeneXpert, enhanced laboratory data transmission through DataToCare, advanced x-ray technology for improved case-finding, and the provision of technical assistance, administrative support and infrastructure-strengthening to target facilities.

Through Challenge TB, we developed and delivered three state-of-the-art TB facilities to the Government of the Republic of Zambia.  Located in Central, Luapula, and Lusaka provinces, these facilities are now fully operating under the management of the Ministry of Health.

As we acknowledge our successes, it is critical to remind ourselves that TB continues to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality in Zambia, with an estimated 62,000 people falling ill each year. Although we are closing a project chapter, the U.S. government remains committed to working with the Zambian government, the National TB Control Program, and other partners to support work for improved case detection, laboratory strengthening, detecting TB/HIV co-infection, programmatic management of drug-resistant TB, and monitoring and evaluation.

As we look forward to a TB-free Zambia, we urge the Ministry of Health to prioritize the identification and treatment of drug-resistant TB. To date, only a quarter of the estimated drug resistant cases are identified and successfully treated. Additionally, we encourage the scale-up of preventative treatment of patients with dormant TB, to curb the spread of new infections. Working together, we can close these critical gaps and reach our 2030 goal of eliminating TB as a public health problem.

The United States stands committed beside Zambia on its path to self-reliance. Through initiatives such as Challenge TB, Zambia is in a stronger position to manage and sustain a vital section of its health-care system.

Thank you for your time today, and I look forward to celebrating the successes of the Challenge TB project.