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Covid has disrupted global TB services: WHO report

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on October 14, 2020 Published on October 14, 2020

India sees drop in TB notifications, could lead to more deaths

The World Health Organization’s latest report on tuberculosis has cautioned that global targets for TB prevention and treatment will likely be missed without urgent action and investments.

The Covid-19 pandemic has only undermined efforts further by disrupting access to TB services, data collection and reporting. Many countries saw human, financial and other resources being reallocated from TB to Covid-19, according to the report.

In the first six months of the year, high-burden countries like India, Indonesia and the Philippines have seen a 25-30 per cent drop in TB case notifications, the report said, relying on data from 200 countries. “These reductions in case notifications could lead to a dramatic increase in additional TB deaths, according to WHO modelling,” it added.

Before the pandemic, countries did make progress, with a 9 per cent reduction in TB incidence and a 14 per cent drop in deaths between 2015 and 2019. Political commitments at global and national levels delivered results, the WHO said.

Around 1.4 million people died from TB-related illnesses in 2019. Of the estimated 10 million people who developed TB that year, around three million were not diagnosed, or were not officially reported to national authorities, the report said.

The situation was more acute for people with drug-resistant TB. About 4,65,000 people were newly diagnosed with drug-resistant TB in 2019, of which less than 40 per cent were able to access treatment, the WHO said. “Equitable access to quality and timely diagnosis, prevention, treatment and care remains a challenge,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said in a statement.

About 14 million people were treated for TB in 2018-2019, just over one-third of the five-year target (2018-2022) of 40 million, the report saidAround 6.3 million people started TB preventive treatment in 2018-2019, about one-fifth of the way towards the five-year target of 30 million.

Funding issues

Funding is a major issue, the report pointed out. In 2020, funding for TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care reached $6.5 billion, only half of the $13-billion target agreed in the UN Political Declaration on TB.

As in previous years, about 85 per cent of the TB funding in 2020 came from domestic sources, with Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa providing 57 per cent of the global total. International donor funding rose from $9,00,000 in 2019 to $1 billion in 2020.

Since 2000, TB treatment has averted more than 60 million deaths — although with access to universal health coverage still falling short, many millions have also missed out on diagnosis and care, the report said.

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Published on October 14, 2020
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