Direct Relief is strengthening efforts to treat and control tuberculosis (TB) in Pakistan through a partnership with Bethania Hospital, the largest center for TB control in the densely populated Punjab region.
Though tuberculosis – a contagious disease spread by coughing and sneezing that usually attacks the lungs – no longer causes the death of one out of every seven people in Europe and the Americas, as it did in the late 19th century, tuberculosis remains an epidemic in much of the world today. Nearly 1.5 million deaths from TB occur each year, mostly in developing countries.
In Pakistan, approximately 420,000 new TB cases emerge every year and 1.5 million people in Pakistan live with the disease, ranking the country fifth among TB high-burden countries worldwide.
While much progress is to be made, there is a reason to have hope this World Tuberculosis Day, recognized March 24.
Certified by the Pakistan Center for Philanthropy and strengthened by organizations like Direct Relief, Bethania Hospital can offer free medical services in a region of Pakistan with so many living below the poverty line, who would otherwise be unable to receive high-quality care at affordable cost.
Last year, 1,200 people living with TB received completely free diagnoses, treatment and meals at Bethania, while 8,500 additional suspected cases of TB were addressed in their laboratories. But it is not enough to detect, diagnose and treat on the premises, so the staff also trains community health workers who reach out to neighboring villages to educate the public as well.
Three Direct Relief staff members visited the site last fall and were overwhelmed by gratitude from those working at Bethania – like Ilyas who gave Direct Relief staff a tour of the hospital grounds, including their 24-hour pharmacy, and their modern laboratory offering a range of analysis. He informed the staff that Bethania also has its information technologies department to support their system of inventorying donated product and monitoring and evaluating their patients.
Over the last few years, Direct Relief has had the privilege of supporting Bethania Hospital with nearly $800,000 worth of donated medicine and medical supplies. Aided by this support, every day Bethania Hospital moves closer to their goal to control tuberculosis in the heart of the Punjab.