27 June 2022 · Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy
Tanzania’s Path to Zero Leprosy: Q&A with Dr Kamara
In May 2022, Tanzania’s National Leprosy Programme developed a Zero Leprosy Action Plan together with national and international partners. The county’s National Leprosy Programme Manager, Dr Deusdedit Kamara, shares their progress to date and how they will move the new Zero Leprosy agenda forward.
What will the action plan help Tanzania achieve?
Last year, during the stakeholder meeting, we developed a Zero Leprosy Roadmap. The roadmap identifies the milestones we would like to achieve as a country. To implement this roadmap, we needed an action plan. The action plan provides the strategic direction. Through the action planning workshops, we identified what priority actions should be taken to achieve the roadmap’s milestones.
What challenges were identified in the country review? How are those challenges addressed in the action plan?
We are experiencing a human resource crisis. There is a shortage of health workers not only for leprosy but for the general health system in the country. A major challenge we identified through the review was the need for capacity building and increased leprosy knowledge among the health workforce so that they can diagnose leprosy. The action plan includes training and capacity-building activities.
Another challenge is the implementation of single-dose rifampicin post-exposure prophylaxis (SDR-PEP) activities. Until now, SDR-PEP is not routine. SDR-PEP activities have begun in some areas, but they have not been evaluated. First, we need to locate the problem to better reach people at risk. In the action plan, we plan for how to improve the distribution of SDR-PEP to the people who need it, as well as how it could be scaled up alongside case finding, contact screening, and training. We know that implementation of SDR-PEP requires engaging the community and persons affected by leprosy.
How did persons affected by leprosy contribute to the action plan?
Before the action planning workshops, the National Leprosy Programme met with the national organization of persons affected by leprosy, the Tanzania Leprosy Association (TLA). They identified what they would like the action plan to address. They stressed participation at all levels, from planning through implementation. They also emphasized the need for socio-economic support and rights within their communities. A representative from TLA joined the workshops. The action plan covers all components that they asked to be addressed.
How is Tanzania making strides toward ending leprosy?
We needed to collaborate internally and externally. We needed a tool. Until last year, the National Leprosy Programme had not had its own comprehensive review. Now, for the first time, we have a leprosy-specific action pan. This alone is a milestone. As a next step, the Ministry of Health would like to review the action plan and endorse it.
We are preparing a brief that shows the entire process and links the country review, roadmap, and action plan so that policymakers can better understand the need for resources. We aim to use this document to help policymakers realize that domestic contributions to leprosy programming should increase. These contributions would support field operations and complement the efforts of our partners so that we can move the agenda forward.