“We can meet the challenges of the fight against tuberculosis if we join forces.”

“We can meet the challenges of the fight against tuberculosis if we join forces.”

Dr Kobto G Koura, The Union’s Programme Coordinator for Africa, believes that everyone has a significant contribution to make in the fight to end tuberculosis (TB): “We work in a very complex environment. If we want to end TB, it is essential that we all work together. To achieve this, we must cultivate humility, working with complete respect for one another.”

Dr Koura’s career at The Union has focused on building close partnerships with national TB programmes (NTPs) in various African countries, providing technical assistance to bolster their efforts to eradicate TB.

“The challenges facing TB control in African countries, like many other countries from around the world, are numerous and intricate, and can vary considerably from country to country. We must ensure NTPs are at the heart of the decision-making process so they can guide and tailor the TB response to the specific challenges they face.”

Dr Koura supports the NTPs to ensure the needs of the person with the disease always come first. His involvement in The Union’s TITI study, which provided a simple and scalable model to ensure preventive therapy was provided to all children in contact with a person on TB treatment in four countries, and The Union study into the nine-month regimen for multidrug-resistant TB, which underpinned the World Health Organization’s revised treatment guidelines, cutting treatment from 20-24 months down to nine, are two such examples.

As part of a new Union project, the Contributing to the Elimination of Tuberculosis in Africa project (CETA), Dr Koura will lead a team to support National TB Programmes in eight countries in francophone Africa.

“The project focuses on three areas. First, the project involves the detection and rapid treatment of people with active TB and includes providing the patients’ close contacts with preventive therapy. For this, two particular target groups are involved: children under five years and people living with HIV. Second, the project will work to improve management of multidrug-resistant TB and better integrate TB care into mainstream health systems. And finally, we will support the management of funding and capacity building by establishing a network of local experts.”

Dr Koura believes the success of the project will come from its in-country focus. “The Union’s activities have a very real impact on the ground, where they matter”, he says.

“TB is a major public health problem and a threat to international health security. Yet despite the availability of new funding, and the significant progress made over the last 20 years, TB incidence is only falling at about two percent per year. In view of the efforts still required to reach the objectives set by the international community, we must innovate and accelerate the fight against TB. It is in this context that the CETA project was set up.”

Born and raised in the Republic of Benin, it was during his medical internship in Cotonou that Dr Koura first became interested in TB and lung health: “I had to take care of people with HIV, TB and various respiratory conditions. On acquiring the skills to diagnose, treat and follow-up, I found I wanted to continue to work with people with these medical conditions, and in particular to contribute to the prevention and control of TB.”

In 2009, Dr. Koura obtained his master’s degree in Public Health at Paris-Sud University, and in 2012 he completed his doctorate in Public Health: Epidemiology and Biomedical Information Sciences at the Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris. After completing a post-doctorate in epidemiology at the University Claude Bernard of Lyon, Dr. Koura joined The Union in 2013.

His work on several operational research projects and participation in Union training courses, alongside the technical assistance and research he undertakes, help form his vision of a collaborative TB elimination effort.

“We must seek out the unique qualities our colleagues and partners can bring in the fight to end TB. Everyone has a role to play in the battle against one of the deadliest infectious diseases in the world.”

In keeping with his intrinsic desire to join forces with other organisations, he hopes The Union can collaborate to better effect in the region: “The Union has several members in Africa. By mobilising these partnerships, there is great potential to bolster our efforts in the region - we can meet the challenges of the fight against TB if we join forces.”

Dr Koura’s focus on teamwork extends beyond his professional life, and he is keen to credit his family’s involvement in his working life: “I would like to thank my family, especially my wife and my children for their many sacrifices to enable me to carry out my mission.”

The CETA project is financed by an Agence Française De Développement (AFD) grant of five million euros, with additional funding from the Canton of Vaud (273,450 euros) to contribute to the implementation of the project's first strategic intervention.

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