As the world commemorated the World Tuberculosis Day amidst Covid-19 pandemic, governments across the world have been challenged to channel the same solidarity used in combating coronavirus (Covid-19) towards Tuberculosis (TB).
This call was made by the WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, on Monday, during the press briefing on the global status of Covid-19.
Mr Ghebreyesus said while the world is currently plagued with the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, Tuberculosis could make more people vulnerable to Covid-19.
Mr Ghebreyesus asked for solidarity from governments, funders and the community at large in tackling TB globally.
He reminded everyone that although COVID-19 is dominating the world’s attention, “there’s another respiratory disease that is both preventable and treatable”.
He said the World TB Day was an opportunity to remind world leaders of the commitments they have made to end the suffering and death “caused by this ancient and terrible disease”.
“The world is rightly responding to COVID-19 with urgency and purpose. We call on the global community to harness that same urgency and purpose for the fight against tuberculosis – and for a healthier, safer, fairer world for everyone.
“COVID-19 is highlighting just how vulnerable people with lung diseases and weakened immune systems can be.”
Every March 24, the World Tuberculosis Day is celebrated to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.
The theme this year is “It is time”. The theme is a call for accelerated action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets to end TB epidemics by 2030.
Tuberculosis is an agelong infectious disease that affects the lungs, and one of the world’s top infectious killer, killing over 1.5 million people yearly.
It is more deadly than the ongoing Covid-19, but it has a cure if quickly detected.
In 2018, 10 million people fell ill with TB worldwide and 1.5 million people lost their lives to this disease, a report from the WHO has shown.
According to the report, Nigeria is one of the eight countries with the highest burden of the disease globally.
Although the report showed some level of global improvement in placing more people on TB treatment in 2018, Nigeria and seven other countries – India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and South Africa accounted for 66 per cent of the new cases.
Unfortunately, many cases of TB globally are being missed.
The coronavirus outbreak could be of devastating effect to vulnerable people with lung diseases and weakened immune systems.
Call for action
Meanwhile, UNAIDS has urged world leaders to honour their commitment to the political declaration made at the UN meeting in 2018 to end TB by 2030.
UNAIDS said that in 2018, 10 million people fell ill with TB worldwide and 1.5 million people lost their lives to the disease, including 251,000 people living with HIV.
“While there has been a 60 per cent reduction in deaths from TB among people living with HIV since 2000, the world is not on track to reach the 75 per cent reduction by 2020,” it stated.
The agency said “it is critical to remember that we need to sustain services for addressing TB epidemics and TB/HIV infections globally.”
It said “there is still a $ 3.3 billion yearly funding shortfall for TB prevention and care.”
“It is also timely to remember that programmes already in place to combat TB and other major infectious diseases can be leveraged to make the response to COVID-19 more rapid and effective.”