The World Health Organisation has warned health authorities worldwide on the need to move much faster to prevent, detect and treat the “deadly epidemic” of Tuberculosis.
The Director of the WHO’s TB programme, Mario Raviglione, on Friday said in a statement in Geneva that the move has become imperative if they are determined to reduce TB infections and deaths by 2030.
Quoting a 2015 report, Raviglione said that six countries, including Nigeria, accounted for 60 per cent of tuberculosis cases.
He said that the annual report on tackling TB, showed that progress had been dismal and called for “bold political commitment and increased funding.
The statement said, “For a highly contagious lung disease which kills more people each year than HIV and malaria combined, without it, the world will continue to chase the epidemic rather than get on top of it.
“The dismal progress in the TB response is a tragedy for the millions of people suffering from this disease.
“To save more lives now, we must get newly recommended rapid tests, drugs and regimens to those who need them. Current actions and investments fall far short of what is needed.”
Raviglione said that available data showed that there were an estimated 10.4 million new TB cases worldwide in 2015.
It said, “The report found, with six countries accounting for 60 per cent, the countries are first India, then Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.
“Some 1.8 million people died from TB last year, of whom 0.4 million were co-infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS.”
The report noted that while global TB deaths have fallen by 22 per cent between 2000 and 2015, the disease was still one of the top 10 causes of death globally in 2015.
Greg Elder of the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières said the figures constituted “a shockingly bad report card”.
He said, “Countries are failing to diagnose and treat millions of people with TB.
“Governments need to get their heads out of the sand and realise that TB is not a disease consigned to the 1800s, we see and treat TB in our clinics every day, and it’s a deadly threat to all of us.”
Margaret Chan, WHO’s Director General, called for a massive scale-up of efforts, or countries would continue to run behind the deadly epidemic.
She said that the report warned of a widening gap between the finances needed for TB care and prevention in poor and middle-income countries, and actual funds available.
She said, “A 2-billion dollar shortfall now, from some 8.3 billion dollar needed for 2016, will widen to 6 billion pounds by 2020 if funding is not increased.’’
Chan said that more than 84 per cent of the TB funding available in low and middle-income countries in 2016 was domestic.
She added that this was mostly accounted for by the large and relatively wealthy BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Chan stressed that other less wealthy countries rely heavily on international donor financing, with more than 75 per cent coming from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.NAN