Afghanistan has faced health consequences of war including those due to displacement of populations, breakdown of health and social services, and increased risks of disease transmission for over three decades. Yet it was able to restructure its National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTP), integrate tuberculosis treatment into primary health care and achieve most of its targets by the year 2011. What were the processes that enabled the programme to achieve its targets? More importantly, what were the underpinning factors that made this success possible? We addressed these important questions through a case study.
We adopted a processes and outcomes framework for this study, which began with examining the change in key programme indicators, followed by backwards tracing of the processes and underlying factors, responsible for this change. Methods included review of the published and grey literature along with in-depth interviews of 15 key informants involved with the care of tuberculosis patients in Afghanistan.
Discussion and evaluation
TB incidence and mortality per 100,000 decreased from 325 and 92 to 189 and 39 respectively, while case notification and treatment success improved during the decade under study. Efficient programme structures were enabled through high political commitment from the Government, strong leadership from the programme, effective partnership and coordination among stakeholders, and adequate technical and financial support from the development partners.
The NTP Afghanistan is an example that public health programmes can be effectively implemented in fragile states. High political commitment and strong local leadership are essential factors for such programmes. To ensure long-term effectiveness of the NTP, the international support should be withdrawn in a phased manner, coupled with a sequential increase in resources allocated to the NTP by the Government of Afghanistan.