Shobha Shukla, CNS (Citizen News Service)
(CNS): The world's eyes and ears are expectantly focussed on the forthcoming first-ever UN High Level Meeting (UNHLM) to #endTB: "United to End TB: An Urgent Global Response to a Global Epidemic." The global TB community is hailing this as a landmark opportunity to marshal political will and resources to end TB by 2030. Will this meeting actually turn out to be the magic potion that would rid the world of TB by 2030?
"This is an unprecedented opportunity when for the first time ever, over 45 heads of state will actually make statements of commitments to end TB at this event, at the 73rd UN General Assembly (UNGA). It is hopefully going to be a turning point in the fight against TB", said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director General for Programmes, World Health Organization (WHO), in an exclusive interview given to CNS (Citizen News Service).
Dr Swaminathan further said that it is also proposed to have a national accountability mechanism for every head of state to commit and be accountable for progress on TB. Moreover the meeting will hopefully help to mobilize more funding: both for TB programmes and for TB research and innovation - particularly for more domestic resources from middle-income countries and from the high TB-burden countries. The event will also create a huge amount of awareness bringing together civil society, patient voices, political commitment as well as the experts on TB and translate into concrete actions at country level in order to achieve the global goals.
Dr KS Sachdeva, who heads the national TB programme of India as Deputy Director General of Central TB Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, calls the meeting a welcome step to put TB on the high-level agenda of UNGA and give it the much-deserved attention. He is optimistic that it will force the high-level politicians and others who have the power to make health as a development agenda, to realise that TB is one disease whose elimination can move us towards achieving the sustainable-development goals. Tackling TB can actually contribute to reduction in poverty; being airborne, TB is one disease which anybody can get. So, making developing countries TB free is actually in the interest of all the countries of the world, he told CNS.
Some chilling facts
The meeting does come at a time which we can call turbulent, in terms of TB control. WHO's latest Global TB Report released last week does not paint a very bright picture of the status of the TB epidemic. The year 2017 saw an estimated 10 million people developing TB and 1.6 million TB-related deaths globally. The number of new cases is falling by 2% per year, which is much too slow to achieve the desired annual decrease of 10% by 2025 if we are to remain on track to end TB by 2030.
Under-reporting and under-diagnosis of TB cases remains a major challenge. Current treatment coverage is 64% (of those who fell ill with TB) and must increase to at least 90% by 2025 to meet the TB targets. Of the estimated 558000 people who developed multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) or rifampicin resistant TB (RR-TB) in 2017, only 25% people were enrolled on treatment with a second-line regimen. Globally, MDR-TB treatment success remains low at 55%. The report also flags that, unless scaled up drastically, the annual gap in funding for TB prevention and care in low- and middle-income countries is likely to widen to US$ 5.4 billion by 2020 from the current US$ 3.5 billion.