By Asma’u Ahmad
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says it will hold the first Global Ministerial Conference on Tuberculosis (TB) as part of efforts to end the epidemic by 2030.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement in Abuja that the conference would hold in Moscow, Russia in November.
She said this on the sidelines of the World Tuberculosis Day commemorated on March 24, annually with the theme “Unite to End TB”.
She said the global community had realised the big challenge of ending the TB epidemic by 2030, adding that the conference will help find ways of taking the fight to the next level.
Ms. Moeti said TB was still one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. She noted that while the number of TB cases was declining globally, there were a staggering 10.4 million new TB cases estimated in 2015.
She said over a third of these were still not diagnosed and treated, stating that those that had been diagnosed were yet to be registered by any national TB control programmes.
“The global community is realising the very big challenge of achieving this goal. To this end, 2017 will see the unprecedented First WHO Global Ministerial Conference on TB in November in Moscow, Russia.
“Also looking ahead to the UN High Level Meeting on TB in 2018 at the UN General Assembly. Doing things differently requires commitment to strengthen health systems, improve communication and up skill for health providers if we hope to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target of ending the TB epidemic by 2030.
“We will need to build on our achievements made during the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) era and reposition resources for best results and impact. This will mean uniting together to achieve universal health coverage, involving more than Ministries of Health.
“It means creating opportunities across society; other government departments, civil society and communities, non-governmental organisations and the private sector need to be part of the fight to end the TB epidemic within our lifetime,” Moeti said.
The regional director, advocated for the use of innovation in the fight against TB, stating that the organisation will continue to support countries in strengthening health systems in order to end the
She said that every fourth new TB case recorded was from Africa which has 16 of the top 30 countries with the highest TB burden. According to Moeti, every third case of HIV-associated TB is from the Region, with 81 per cent of notified TB patients knowing their HIV status.
She said that Multi Drug Resistant TB (MDR-TB) continued to pose a serious challenge due to lack of adequate laboratory capacity to detect it and access treatment.
She said: “Because of this, seven countries currently have high levels of MDR-TB. In 2014, countries in the African Region agreed to reduce TB deaths by 75 per cent and new TB cases by 50 per cent by 2025. To attain these new targets, countries and partners need to intensify efforts to reach, treat and cure everyone with TB.
“In particular, the poorest and most vulnerable people who are disproportionately affected by TB need special attention along with undeserved areas which lack access to basic health services.
“These include migrants, refugees, ethnic minorities, miners and others working and living in risk-prone settings, the elderly, marginalised women and children in many settings.”
Ms. Moeti therefore called on governments and other stakeholders to unite to end TB by working closely together to address the scourge of the disease ensuring no one was left behind.