Home NewsInternational TB Day: WHO calls for increased investments to TB services, research

TB Day: WHO calls for increased investments to TB services, research

by Haruna Gimba

By Asmau Ahmad

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for an urgent investment of resources, support, care and information into the fight against Tuberculosis (TB).

The organisation made the call in a press release on Tuesday, ahead of the 2022 World Tuberculosis Day, annually marked on March 24.

The day was fixed by the United Nations to raise awareness about the deadly infectious disease and its devastating health, social and economic impact on people around the world.

March 24 marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch, a German Physician and Microbiologist, announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way toward diagnosing and curing the disease.

The day is, therefore, observed as World Tuberculosis Day and has “Invest to End TB. Save Lives” as its 2022 theme.

The WHO, which stated that although 66 million lives were saved since 2000, the COVID-19 pandemic had reversed those gains.

It added that “the 2022 theme conveys the urgent need to invest resources to ramp up the fight against TB and achieve the commitments made by global leaders.”

It said that the ongoing conflicts across Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East further exacerbated the situation for vulnerable populations, adding that “global spending on TB diagnostics, treatments and prevention in 2020 were less than half of the global target of 13 billion dollars annually by 2022.

“For research and development; an extra 1.1 billion dollars per year is needed.”

The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, said “urgent investments are needed to develop and expand access to the most innovative services and tools to prevent, detect and treat TB that could save millions of lives each year, narrow inequities and avert huge economic losses.

Ghebreyesus said the investments in TB programmes demonstrated benefits not just for people with TB, but for health systems and pandemic preparedness.

According to him, building on lessons learnt from COVID-19 research, there is a need to catalyse investment and action to accelerate the development of new tools, especially new TB vaccines.

He said 20 million people were reached with TB treatment between 2018 and 2020, adding that “this is 50 per cent of the five-year target of 40 million people reached with TB treatment for 2018 to 2022.

“During the same period, 8.7 million people were provided TB preventive treatment. This is 29 per cent of the target of 30 million for 2018-2022, “he said.

Ghebreyesus said the situation was even worse for children and adolescents with TB.

He said in 2020, an estimated 63 per cent of children and young adolescents below 15 years with TB were not reached with or not officially reported to have accessed life-saving TB diagnosis.

Ghebreyesus said that almost two thirds of eligible children under five did not receive TB preventive treatment and therefore remained at risk of illness.

He said COVID-19 had a further negative and disproportionate impact on children and adolescents with TB or at risk, with increased TB transmission in the household, lower care-seeking and access to health services.

According to him, WHO is sounding the alarm on World TB Day, for countries to urgently restore access to TB services, disrupted due to COVID-19 pandemic for all people with TB, especially children and adolescents.

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