Tuberculosis (TB) threatens the lives of thousands of people, many of them already vulnerable, in the central Asian country of Turkmenistan.
That’s why the Red Crescent Society of Turkmenistan, with support from the British Red Cross, is giving practical and emotional help to people getting treatment for the dangerous but curable disease. The organisation also tackles stigma and discrimination by teaching the public about the illness.
The programme supports people with TB and their families in the cities of Ashgabat, Dashoguz, Mary, Tejen and Turkmenabat. Funding from the British Red Cross helped it reach 5,368 people in just three months in 2012.
Check-ups and food parcels
Red Crescent nurses carry out check-ups and home visits for people getting treatment for TB, which can be a long and difficult process. Because staying strong is an important part of recovering from the illness, the programme gives food and hygiene parcels to some particularly vulnerable patients.
Many people who’ve beaten the illness with the Red Crescent’s help then start volunteering for the organisation, using their experience to help others.
The Red Crescent has also set up peer support groups to allow people with the disease to share the problems they are facing with others – and it helps the families and friends of people with TB, who are at risk of falling ill themselves, get screening for the disease.
There is still a lot of stigma surrounding TB and people affected by it often find themselves cut off from society, which makes those who think they might have it less likely to seek treatment. But by raising awareness of the disease, Red Crescent staff and volunteers are tackling discrimination and encouraging more people to get help.
Plays, musical performances and events in schools have raised public awareness of the illness, and brochures and leaflets about it have been given out in places like factories, supermarkets and football grounds.
The Red Crescent also works with police officers and government workers to help them understand the disease.