Ogulgerek Garaevai, 42 is a Turkmenistan Red Crescent nurse helping patients who have tuberculosis (TB) . She has worked at a clinic in Dashoguz, northern Turkmenistan, since the beginning of the programme in 2000.
“When I first heard about TB, I realised it was a growing problem,” Ogulgerek says. “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a period of no TB treatment in Turkmenistan, and this led to a spike in TB cases.”
TB treatment can take up to six months, and the medication can have unpleasant side effects, so taking it under supervision (direct observational treatment or DOTS) is critical to making sure clients adhere to their treatment. Patients come to see Ogulgerek three times a week to take their medication under her supervision.
In 2009, the treatment completion rate among clients under direct observation by Red Crescent nurses was an impressive 94 per cent. “I’ve seen how the DOTS programme has helped people,” says Ogulgerek. “The number of people completing their treatment and being cured has increased.”
Ogulgerek’s other important role is to provide psychosocial support to clients and chat with them. “I go to families’ homes and take TB leaflets so that they can read them in their own time, and discuss the issues as a family,” she says. “I also provide food parcels to the most vulnerable.”
The Red Crescent is the only organisation in Turkmenistan to provide food parcels to the most vulnerable clients. “Most TB clients live in bad conditions,” Ogulgerek says. “They can’t work and some of them live alone. They are very vulnerable. Our experience has shown how important food parcels can be to clients for their recovery. If a person has no access to water, how can you tell them to drink only boiled water? It is the same with nutrition. If they can’t even eat, how will they stick to a lengthy TB treatment?
Ogulgerek also supports TB clients and their families who live in the area around the clinic, and gives talks and training sessions to teach TB prevention and symptom recognition.
“TB cases are going down now,” Ogulgerek says. “People are much better informed.”
Find out about TB in Turkmenistan