By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Disruptions in services caused by Novel CoronaVirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has led to further setbacks in global progress in tackling Tuberculosis (TB), World Health Organization (WHO) said in a news statement.
WHO noticed that in many countries, human, financial and other resources have been relocated from to the COVID-19 response.
“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries were making steady progress in tackling tuberculosis (TB), with a 9% reduction in incidence seen between 2015 and 2019 and a 14% drop in deaths in the same period.
“High-level political commitments at global and national levels were delivering results. However, a new report from WHO shows that access to TB services remains a challenge, and that global targets for prevention and treatment will likely be missed without urgent action and investments,” the international authority on public health narrated.
According to it, approximately 1.4 million people died from TB-related illnesses in 2019. Of the estimated 10 million people who developed TB that year, some 3 million were not diagnosed with the disease, or were not officially reported to national authorities.
The situation is even more acute for people with drug-resistant TB, WHO said, stressing that about 465 000 people were newly diagnosed with drug-resistant TB in 2019 and, of these, less than 40 per cent were able to access treatment.
It pointed out that there has also been limited progress in scaling up access to treatment to prevent TB.
“Equitable access to quality and timely diagnosis, prevention, treatment and care remains a challenge,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO said. “Accelerated action is urgently needed worldwide if we are to meet our targets by 2022.”
WHO stated that about 14 million people were treated for TB in the period 2018-2019, just over one-third of the way towards the 5-year target (2018-2022) of 40 million, according to the report.
It explained that some 6.3 million people started TB preventive treatment in 2018-2019, about one-fifth of the way towards the 5-year target of 30 million.
“Funding”, WHO highlighted “is a major issue.
It disclosed that in year 2020, funding for TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care reached US$ 6.5 billion, representing only half of the US$ 13 billion target agreed by world leaders in the United Nations (UN) Political Declaration on TB.
“Disruptions in services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to further setbacks. In many countries, human, financial and other resources have been reallocated from TB to the COVID-19 response. Data collection and reporting systems have also been negatively impacted,” WHO elaborated.
According to the new report, data collated from over 200 countries has shown significant reductions in TB case notifications, with 25-30% drops reported in 3 high burden countries – India, Indonesia, the Philippines – between January and June 2020 compared to the same 6-month period in 2019.
These reductions in case notifications could lead to a dramatic increase in additional TB deaths, according to WHO modelling.