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WHO says progress on TB is at risk from underfunding

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported for the first time that the number of people falling ill with tuberculosis (TB) each year is declining. New data, published in the WHO 2011 Global Tuberculosis Control Report, also shows that the number of people dying from the disease fell to its lowest level in a decade. Yet, current progress is at risk from under-funding, the report says.

“Fewer people are dying of tuberculosis, and fewer are falling ill. This is cause for celebration.” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon. “But it is no cause for complacency. Too many millions still develop TB each year, and too many die. I urge serious and sustained support for TB prevention and care, especially for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

The new report finds that the number of people who fell ill with TB was 8.8 million in 2010. TB deaths fell to 1.4 million in 2010, after reaching 1.8 million in 2003. In 2009, 87% of patients treated were cured. Since 1995 a total of 46 million people have been successfully treated and 7 million lives saved. However, a third of estimated TB cases worldwide – roughly 3 million cases – are not notified and therefore it is unknown whether they have been diagnosed and properly treated.

Much of the progress reported is the result of expanded efforts in large countries, the WHO says. “In many countries, strong leadership and domestic financing, with robust donor support, has started to make a real difference in the fight against TB,” said WHO’s Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan. “The challenge now is to build on that commitment, to increase the global effort – and to pay particular attention to the growing threat of multidrug-resistant TB,” Dr Chan said.

“We welcome this report, with its more precise approach to estimating the global burden of TB, as a critical contribution from WHO to the entire TB community and Stop TB Partnership. This is where WHO excels,” said Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership. “At the same time, we worry that the lower estimates for TB cases and deaths may inspire complacency. We have by no means won the war against TB, and in many ways the battle has just started if we are to pave the way towards elimination. Let us not forget that nearly 9 million people are still becoming ill with TB each year, that 3 million cases are not detected and treated and almost one and a half million people are dying of this curable disease. As long as we have three people that die with TB every minute and 10 million children in the world who have been orphaned because a parent died of TB we can not afford to declare victory just yet!”

Worldwide, the share of domestic funding allocated to TB rose to 86% for 2012. But most low income countries still rely heavily on external funding.

“The report predicts that donor funding will reach US$ 600 million in 2012. This is completely inadequate and almost US$ 1.5 billion short, when you consider that the funding gap for meeting the 2012 implementation targets of the Global Plan to Stop TB remains US$ 2 billion,” Dr Ditiu said. “This, without adding the significant gap for research and development of more than US$ 1 billion.”

Treating multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) remains one of the most under-funded areas, the report says. While the number of MDR-TB patients treated increased to 46,000 in 2010 – this is just 16% of the estimated number of MDR-TB patients that needed treatment.

“A new rapid test for MDR-TB is revolutionizing TB diagnosis with 26 countries using the test only six months after its endorsement by WHO last December, with at least ten more countries expected to have it by the end of 2011,” said Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of WHO’s Stop TB Department, “But the promise of testing more people must be matched with the commitment to treat all detected. It would be a scandal to leave diagnosed patients without treatment”.

Release from the StopTB Partnership

For more details contact: Judith Mandelbaum-Schmid – Team Leader for Communications

Written by JournalistsAgainstTB

October 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm

Posted in TB and Media

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