The rainbow nation of South Africa is, unfortunately, the epicentre of drug-resistant tuberculosis in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the highest recorded rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis (including XDR-TB) as well as a frightening proportion of patients co-infected with HIV and TB. Sadly one of the MDR hotspots of the country is in the townships of the Cape Flats not far from beautiful Table Mountain. In this ever-expanding urban area of high population density and poor housing, there are also fluid immigrant populations, as people come from all over the African continent searching for employment, something which significantly adds to the problems of controlling diseases such as HIV and TB.
In 2011 Moxafrica began working in the Western Cape by supporting two 12 month pilot studies in quite different locations one in Nyanga in the Cape Flats, and the other a hundred miles east in a small township outside Robertson in the South African wine-growing country. Teams of Community Health Workers who deliver daily TB medicine to patients within the townships were trained to use moxa and to offer it to their patients and were asked to report back on their findings.
The study in Nyanga township near Cape Town was particularly successful and included some MDR-TB patients who were being treated in the community. Through talking to patients and receiving feedback from Health Workers we could see the potential benefits that moxa could bring just as we had in Uganda and were left even more convinced that it had huge potential to help these communities.
In Nyanga, we were very privileged to be working with SACLA (South Africa Christian Leadership Association), and their dedicated team of Health Workers. This special partnership helped us understand some of the immense challenges of township life, as well as the enormous difficulties faced by health professionals in these environments, and we are particularly grateful for Thoko Mtulu, the project's manager for her support.
Dr. Andre Sorger, a lecturer at the School of Natural Medicine at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), was also involved through his long-term contacts with SACLA as part of outreach work with his acupuncture students from the UWC.
The general information gained from both of these projects (in Nyanga and in Robertson) helped us in the planning of the Randomised Control Trial that was then beginning to come into real shape back in Uganda.
Unfortunately seriously deteriorating crime levels in the township coupled with problems within SACLA itself led to the project having to be suspended just at the moment it was beginning to really gather its own momentum. We still remain hopeful, however, that something can be salvaged, either in Nyanga or in a similar project elsewhere in the Cape Flats.