Health

World TB Day: 36% of tuberculosis deaths occur in Africa, says WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed concern that with 36 per cent of all tuberculosis (TB) deaths occurring in Africa, failure to invest in its response will take a formidable toll on African countries.

The organisation said that increased investment can be a game-changer, and alleviate the preventable suffering and death of millions of people.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said this in a message to commemorate the World TB Day that is observed on  March 24, each year.

Moeti said the day was to raise public awareness and understanding about one of the global deadliest infectious diseases.

She said that the UN High-Level world leaders had agreed to mobilise 13 billion dollars per year to finance TB prevention and treatment by 2022.

According to her, the world leaders also promised another two billion dollars per year for TB research in the face of growing concerns around drug-resistant TB.

WHO regional director said the world saw an increase in the number of global TB deaths for the first time in over a decade in 2021, adding that contributing factors included reduced access to TB diagnosis and treatment in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She called on the governments to mobilise additional domestic financial support for TB control, including contributions to the Global Fund.

Moeti said the fund, in February, launched its 18-billion dollars Seventh Replenishment campaign in a bid to counter the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on the fight against TB.

“Today, I call on governments to mobilise additional domestic financial support for TB control, including contributions to the Global Fund, which last month launched its 18-billion dollars Seventh Replenishment campaign.

“This is in a bid to counter the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on the fight against TB.

“I urge all stakeholders to advocate increased investment and to ensure that TB services are integrated into the primary health care response.

“We must all also work more closely with our communities, leveraging their expert local knowledge to tailor response efforts for maximum impact,” she said.

Moeti appealed to donors, the private sector, civil society, and academia to pay increased attention to urgently boosting investment in the fight against TB and in TB research.

She said that in Africa, governments contribute only 22 per cent of the resources required to deliver adequate TB services, with 44 per cent going unfunded, which has remained an impending effort to reduce the TB burden.

She said it would help to accelerate technological breakthroughs and uptake of innovations towards ending TB by 2030.

Moeti said that funding for TB prevention, diagnosis, and treatment services continues to fall short of estimated global needs.

She added that there was the need for increased funding from domestic and international donors to counteract a reversal of the significant gains made against TB in the past decades.

According to her, at the current rate of progress, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target of ending the TB epidemic by 2030 may not be achievable.

Moeti said that this year’s theme; “Invest to end TB. Save lives”, emphasised the urgent need for the resources necessary to ramp up the fight against TB and realise the commitments to end TB made by global leaders.

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