New Delhi: On World TB Day, WHO Friday (March 24) called foranintensifiedwhole-of-governmentandwhole-of-societyapproachtoend the disease globally. It also highlighted the urgent needfor strengthening high-level leadership and investments and accelerating the uptake of innovations and new recommendations of the world health body. Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has not just stalled but reversed years of progress towardsendingtuberculosis, saidWHORegional DirectorforSouth-East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh.
In 2021, the estimated burden of new and relapsetuberculosiscases globally was 10.6 million, a half-a-million increase from 2020. Mortality from TB and TB-HIV infection stood at 1.6 million, an increase of around 200,000 from pre-COVID-19 levels, she said.
TheWHOSouth-East Asia Region bears the world’s highesttuberculosisburden.
In 2021, the region accountedformore than 45 per cent of globaltuberculosisincidence and more than half of global TB deaths.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the region prioritised maintaining essential health services, includingforTB. In 2020, it notified 2.6 million new and relapse TB cases, a 24 per cent reduction from 2019.
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In 2021, theWHOSouth-East Asia region achieved a partial recovery, reporting 3 million new and relapsed cases, still 12 per cent fewer than in 2019, she said.
The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated key social and economic determinants of TB such as poverty and undernutrition, pushing tens of millions more people in the region into extreme poverty, Dr Khetrapal Singh said.
“Even before the pandemic, an estimated 30–80 per cent of tuberculosispatients in the (WHO‘s south-east Asia) region faced catastrophic costs duetothe disease and around 1 million new TB cases annually, more than one in five attributableto undernutrition,” she said.
It is estimated that across the region, the overall impact of the crisis could leadtoover 7 million additionaltuberculosiscases and 1.5 million additional deaths between 2022 and 2026, Dr Khetrapal Singh said.
Despite the ongoing challenges, the region continues tointensify actiontoachieve theend-TB milestones in line with its flagship priority and Regional Strategic Plantowardsending TB 2021–25, as well as the globalEnd TB Strategy, the UN Political Declaration on the Fight Against TB, and Sustainable Development Goal 3.3.
The momentum must continuetobuild ahead of the second UN High Level Meeting on TB, scheduledforSeptember 2023, she said.
Forthat, the Region has several priorities and the first among them is strengthening high-level leadership, engagement and advocacytoincrease investmentstoendtuberculosis, Dr Khetrapal Singh said. The second is accelerating the uptake of new WHOrecommendations and innovations.Todate, more than 5,000 molecular test platforms have been deployed across the regiontorapidly detect TB and drug resistance. Such platforms must continuetobe scaledtoensure prompt diagnosis and treatment andtoreduce spread.
In all countries, a newWHO-approved treatment regimen that has shown better cure rates in just sixto nine months should be rapidly adopted and rolled out, Dr Khetrapal Singh said.
The third istoaggressively address the social and economic determinants of TB, which are a major ongoing challenge.Forthis, mechanisms should be established and strengthenedtosupport TB patients and their familiestoavoid catastrophic costs, supplement nutrition and promote treatment adherence. Stigma and discrimination must continuetobe tackled, including through community engagement and empowerment initiatives that promote high-quality information and include affected communities in all aspects of policy and programme design, planning and monitoring.
The health sector alone cannot endtuberculosis. Rather,ending TB requires dedicated action from multiple sectors, which as highlighted at the 2021 Regional High-level MeetingtoEnd TB, should be coordinated by national high-level mechanisms, Dr Khetrapal Singh added.
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(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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