Friday, April 6, 2007

Making Progress...One by One

Tomorrow is World Health Day. This year's theme is "Invest in Health, Build a Safer Future". One of the key global health care issues that faces so many of our sponsored children and developing nations as a whole, is Tuberculosis. Here is the story of how the disease has affected one family in the Philippines. Posted on behalf of Deron Denton.

We met Rhia at her home in Quezon City, Philippines shortly after her entire family was treated by the agency for tuberculosis. “We discovered we had TB because my father was coughing – and it began to have blood in it,” the sponsored youth told us.

I imagined how shocking that must have been – not just for her father, but the whole family. I have been terribly ill with upper respiratory infections myself…and have even had coughing fits of such force that they seemed to bruise my ribs…but coughing blood? That must be terribly frightening.

All the family members ended up testing positive for the bacteria that cause TB. But it was Rhia’s father and three brothers who had active tuberculosis, meaning they were suffering from – and showing symptoms of – the disease.

Sadly, the family is far from alone: one out of every three people on the planet is infected with the TB bacillus.

Rhia's family (center, seated on the bench) and staff members from Children International discuss the effects and fear that TB can bring to a family.

Rhia’s family had all been given a clean bill of health by the time we met them. Nonetheless, Edna, Rhia’s mother, began crying as she recounted the entire ordeal. “My fear of the future was terrible,” she said. “I was depressed…I had many sleepless nights.” Without Rhia’s sponsorship, Edna expressed doubt that they would have been able to afford the medications for everyone. Even now, she said, “Every time any of them cough, I get nervous and frightened. My children are the happiness of my life,” added Edna.

Through tears of relief, she expressed her gratitude: “[M]y children can now experience childhood the way they should – playing with friends and roaming the neighborhood.”

In addition to the positive news for Rhia’s family and the thousands of others helped through our anti-TB program, there was good news globally in the fight against TB in 2006. On March 22, two days before World TB Day, the World Health Organization released their latest data showing that TB numbers were leveling out…meaning that although the number of overall cases continued to climb, they did so in line with population growth. This was the first time in 15 years that TB numbers – relative to population – did not grow.

With such a prevalent and deadly disease, not receiving bad news is a welcome indication of progress. And it was moving to witness first-hand one family’s successful recovery.

If you’d like to meet Edna and learn more about the family’s struggle with TB, please click here to watch our video.

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