WHO sounds alarm on TB fight funds

GENEVA— The world is spending nowhere near enough to revive the fight against tuberculosis after the Covid-19 crisis wiped out years of progress, the WHO said.

Ahead of World Tuberculosis Day on Thursday, the World Health Organization said global spending on TB diagnostics, treatments and prevention in 2020 was less than half of the global target of $13 billion annually by 2022.

“TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers. Each day, over 4,100 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease,” the WHO said.

The coronavirus pandemic disrupted access to TB services, the WHO said, as it called for countries to restore pre-pandemic services, especially for children and adolescents.

TB deaths increased in 2020 for the first time in more than a decade.

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria that most often affects the lungs. Like Covid, it is transmitted via the air by infected people, for example by coughing.

The WHO said that the massive investment into Covid-19 research, which resulted in vaccines and treatments deemed safe and effective by the UN health agency, could serve as an inspiration for the fight against TB.

“There is a need to catalyse investment and action to accelerate the development of new tools, especially new TB vaccines,” the organisation said.

The WHO said an extra $1.1 billion was needed in research and development.

“Urgent investments are needed to develop and expand access to the most innovative services and tools to prevent, detect and treat TB that could save millions of lives each year, narrow inequities and avert huge economic losses,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“These investments offer huge returns for countries and donors, in averted health care costs and increased productivity.”


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