WHO calls for efforts to end tuberculosis

Kathmandu, October 14

TB (tuberculosis) remains a serious problem across the World Health Organisation South-East Asia Region, including Nepal, and requires the fullest attention and strongest commitment of governments, donors and civil society leaders to be effectively addressed, said WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia today.

As outlined in WHO’s new global report on TB, a number of countries in the region are among the world’s highest TB burden countries, while revised estimates based on increased case-reporting and enhanced surveillance show that the TB caseload is higher than previously projected.

TB is the single largest cause of death from any infectious disease in the region, and remains responsible for incalculable suffering, premature mortality, impoverishment and foregone development.

“To get on track to achieve the SDG 2030 target and Global End TB Strategy targets by 2035, which includes reducing TB deaths by 95 per cent and cutting new cases by 90 per cent, countries across the region must significantly scale up key interventions made in recent years,” suggested Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia in a press release.

Though countries have been making efforts to end TB and the number of TB deaths and TB incidence rate continues to fall, at the current trend the region would not be able to achieve the SDG targets.

A newer and bolder approach is needed to bend the curve faster and sharper to achieve the global targets. “This means intensifying measures to ensure early diagnosis and treatment, such as active case-finding and enhancing access to cutting-edge diagnostic tools,” she added.

Regional Office said to make this happen, funds must be allocated accordingly, and political commitment must be fortified at national and international levels.

Governments should provide national TB programmes the operating capacity to be agile and responsive in their efforts, while TB control leaders should adapt and apply global TB strategies with care and diligence.

“The battle to achieve a region free of TB with zero death, disease and suffering is both possible and necessary. We can and must make it happen,” said Dr Khetrapal Singh.

According to WHO, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. In 2015, 10.4 million people fell ill with TB and 1.8 million died from the disease (including 0.4 million among people with HIV). Over 95 per cent of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

In Nepal, 45 per cent of the population are infected with TB and 40,000 people get TB every year.