The World Health Organization (WHO) has forewarned for a likely increase in Tuberculosis (TB) death in the coming years, as the result of COVID-19 pandemic.
According to WHO annual report on global efforts to combat TB, there is a continued shortage of funds due to disruptions caused by Coronavirus something that may dramatically increase death of TB patients.
The WHO said there were “significant reductions” in the reporting and monitoring of new TB cases in the first half of 2020, as countries imposed lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19. has limited funding.
WHO further reported that India, Indonesia and the Philippines are high burden countries likely to be affected. These reported a drop of between 25 and 30 percent in case notifications over the six months to June 2020 compared with the same period last year.
“These reductions in case notifications could lead to a dramatic increase in additional TB deaths, according to WHO modelling,” the report said.
TB is considered as the world’s most deadly infectious disease. It is caused by a bacteria that most often affect the lungs, and can spread easily.
An estimated 14 million people were treated for TB between 2018 to 2019, they represent only about a third of the 40 million that the UN agency hopes to treat by 2022.
The WHO calls for an accelerated action in order to combat the disease.
“The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind the gains made over recent years,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“Accelerated action is urgently needed worldwide if we are to meet our targets,” he said.
The WHO noted that although the incidence of the disease dropped nine percent between 2015 and 2019 and fatalities decreased by 14 percent during the same period, more than 1.4 million people still died from tuberculosis in 2019.
Among the most pressing challenge in fighting TB is funding, according to WHO.
This year, funds raised for TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care only reached $6.5bn – half of the $13bn target agreed by world leaders in the UN Political Declaration against TB.
Without urgent action and investments, global targets for prevention and treatment are likely to be missed.
TB is preventable and curable and according to WHO data, about 85 percent of those who develop the disease can be successfully treated with a six-month drug regimen. The treatment also curtails onward transmission of the infection.
Since 2000, TB treatment has averted more than 60 million deaths, it said.