Addressing Childhood Tuberculosis: Opportunities for Maternal and Child Survival Platforms

Tuberculosis (TB) is now the leading infectious cause of death worldwide – ahead of HIV. While major advances in the diagnosis and treatment of TB have been made since 1990, children suffering from this disease have remained neglected and vulnerable. An estimated 1 million children become ill with TB each year, and at least 200 children die each day from TB around the world. 

TB is curable and preventable, but we must recognize and treat it with the least possible delay. For children experiencing TB symptoms, the primary point of health care, often community-level facilities, is an important opportunity to identify and begin treatment. Symptoms such as a persistent cough, loss of appetite and high fevers must be recognized as possible signs of TB (not just of pneumonia, malaria, malnutrition, and other common illnesses among children), and health workers must be empowered to recognize and take appropriate action. Ensuring that children can access treatment close to home is a critical step towards eliminating preventable deaths from TB. 

This short video describes challenges faced by caregivers when seeking care for children with TB. It highlights the need for stronger linkages between maternal and child health services and TB programs, in order to detect TB in children early and begin timely treatment. The video calls for increased attention to the opportunities created by existing maternal and child health platforms to practically address this increasingly important issue. 

The video was produced by the USAID-funded African Strategies for Health (ASH) project, led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH). It features commentaries from global and African regional experts in childhood TB: representatives from the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa, UNICEF, the TB Alliance and USAID.