Southeast Asian nations pledge to step up efforts to end tuberculosis

Kathmandu, March 16

Health ministers from countries in World Health Organisation South-East Asia Region, which bear half the global TB burden, and WHO today signed a Call for Action for Ending TB, pledging to scale-up efforts and implement adequately funded, innovative, multisectoral and comprehensive measures to achieve the global target to end the disease by 2030.

“We need to make ending TB our central priority. The disease continues to be a leading cause of death and lost productive years in the crucial age group of 15-49 years causing catastrophic expenses, financial losses, outright impoverishment of individuals and households and massive aggregate costs to national economies.  Ending TB is paramount for health and development across the region,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director for WHO South-East Asia, told the Ministerial Meeting Towards Ending TB in the South-East Asia Region, in New Delhi.

In 2015, TB caused nearly 800,000 deaths in the region while an estimated 4.74 million new cases were reported. While countries, including Nepal, in the region have been making efforts against TB, the annual decline in TB incidence – which is currently between 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent – is insufficient and needs to be scaled up to at least 10 per cent to 15 per cent for the countries and the region to meet the End TB targets, said the WHO. The global targets seek to reduce TB mortality by 90 per cent and incidence by 80 per cent by 2030.

Committing to take exceptional action and high-impact interventions as per the Call for Action, the health ministers agreed to lead the implementation of the national TB response through an empowered body reporting to the highest levels of government, read a press release issued by WHO.

The Call for Action stresses upon increasing government and partner budgetary allocations to enable national TB plans to be fully funded.

The ministers discussed setting up of a Regional Innovation to Implementation fund for accelerated sharing of knowledge, intellectual resources and innovations to reach out and treat all cases.