Jakarta: WHO's Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report 2020 shows that access to TB services remains a challenge and that global targets for prevention and treatment will likely be missed without urgent action and investments.
Approximately 1.4 million people died from TB-related illnesses in 2019. Of the estimated 10 million people who developed TB that year, some 3 million were not diagnosed with the disease, or were not officially reported to national authorities.
The situation is even more acute for people with drug-resistant TB. About 465 000 people were newly diagnosed with drug-resistant TB in 2019 and, of these, less than 40 percent were able to access treatment.
There has also been limited progress in scaling up access to treatment to prevent TB.
“Equitable access to quality and timely diagnosis, prevention, treatment and care remains a challenge,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a media release on Wedneday.
“Accelerated action is urgently needed worldwide if we are to meet our targets by 2022," he stated.
About 14 million people were treated for TB in the period 2018-2019, just over one-third of the way towards the 5-year target (2018-2022) of 40 million, according to the report. Some 6.3 million people started TB preventive treatment in 2018-2019, about one-fifth of the way towards the 5-year target of 30 million.
Funding is a major issue. In 2020, funding for TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care reached US$ 6.5 billion, representing only half of the US$ 13 billion target agreed by world leaders in the UN Political Declaration on TB.
Disruptions in services caused by the covid-19 pandemic have led to further setbacks. In many countries, human, financial and other resources have been reallocated from TB to the covid-19 response. Data collection and reporting systems have also been negatively impacted.
According to the new report, data collated from over 200 countries has shown significant reductions in TB case notifications, with 25-30 percent drops reported in 3 high burden countries – India, Indonesia, the Philippines – between January and June 2020 compared to the same 6-month period in 2019.
However, in line with WHO guidance, countries have taken measures to mitigate the impact of covid-19 on essential TB services, including by strengthening infection control. A total of 108 countries – including 21 countries with a high TB burden – have expanded the use of digital technologies to provide remote advice and support.
“In the face of the pandemic, countries, civil society and other partners have joined forces to ensure that essential services for both TB and COVID-19 are maintained for those in need,” said Dr Tereza Kaseva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme.
“These efforts are vital to strengthen health systems, ensure health for all, and save lives," she stated.