As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the 2021 World Tuberculosis Day today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is calling on countries and partners to “Unite Together to End Tuberculosis”.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious infection that usually attack the lungs. It can also spread to other parts of your body, like your brain and spine. A type of bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes it.
The theme of the 2021 World TB Day commemoration in Nigeria is ‘The Clock is Ticking’ – and it conveys the sense that the world is running out of time and this is the time to act on the commitments to end TB made by global leaders.
According to the global health organisation, the theme is critical in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and that is the reason why people have to put an end to TB.
The United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says every year, 10 million people fall ill with tuberculosis (TB). “Despite being a preventable and curable disease, 1.5 million people die from TB each year – making it the world’s top infectious killer. TB is the leading cause of death of people with HIV and also a major contributor to antimicrobial resistance.”
The WHO made the call earlier in a press release, saying ending TB is imperative and as well calling for action on several fronts to ensure that the commitments made to end TB are achieved.
The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres urged countries to implement ten priority recommendations outlined in the 2020 progress report and developed with WHO support.
The report stressed that high-level commitments and targets have galvanized global and national progress towards ending TB, but urgent and more ambitious investments and actions are required, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHO urges countries to implement the priority recommendations from the report to put the world on track to reach agreed targets by 2022 and beyond.
He said that essential TB services should be sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that gains made in the fight against TB are not reversed. Adding that all measures should be taken to ensure continuity of services for people who need preventive and curative treatment for TB, including during emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic. People-centred delivery of TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care services, including through digital technologies, should be ensured in tandem with the COVID-19 response.
He also said tackling health inequities is vital to ensure health for all. “The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the deep disparities that persist between and within countries, some of which are being exacerbated and risk widening even further. People with TB are among the most marginalised and vulnerable, facing barriers in accessing care,” the UN secretary added.
In alignment with World Health Day, 7 April 2021, WHO is calling for global action to address health inequities for people with TB and other diseases.
He also advised that systematic screening should be scaled-up to help reach all people with TB prevention and care. “It is estimated that close to three million people with TB are not diagnosed or reported annually around the world. Improved TB screening using new tools and approaches to reach all people with care could help bridge this gap. Systematic screening is critical to ensure we can detect TB early in the people who need it, while also identifying people who could benefit from TB preventive treatment.
“Ending TB requires concerted action by all sectors to provide the right services, support and enabling safe environment in the right place, at the right time. Everyone has a role to play in ending TB – individuals, communities, businesses, governments, societies,” he noted.
“We are running out of time to fulfil global commitments to end TB. Even as we battle COVID-19, we must not ease up the fight against TB but redouble efforts to save more lives and end suffering,” said Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme. “We need political will and accountability, financial resources, engagement from all sectors, and community ownership, and we need this now. The clock is ticking!”