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WHO: Urgent action needed to end tuberculosis by 2030

Credit: Keystone/EPA/Sanjay Baid

The world must take urgent action to end the global tuberculosis epidemic by 2030, especially as the pandemic threatens to unwind hard-won progress made in past decades, concluded the WHO's 2020 Global Tuberculosis Report on Wednesday.

While the WHO European region is on track to achieve key 2020 targets, the rest of the world has fallen short of the milestones set for this year. Those targets included a 20 per cent reduction in tuberculosis incidence and a 35 per cent reduction in deaths between 2015 and 2020.

As of 2019, global TB incidence had only dropped by 9 per cent and TB deaths only dropped by 14 per cent, warned the report. And progress is likely to lag even further due to the severe interruptions seen this year in TB diagnosis and treatment activities.

“The report is sobering [and shows] that we were not on track, even before COVID hit,” warned Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund at Wednesday's launch of the report. “Far too many people die of TB [1.4 million]… and the gap between those that fall ill and those that are diagnosed and treated is far too great.”

The report comes just two years after the world gathered at the United Nations high-level meeting on Tuberculosis (TB) to set bold targets to bring the world's most deadly infectious disease to a halt.

Although TB ​​is largely preventable and treatable, it kills  4,000 people a day. That is as compared to just over 5,000 deaths from the coronavirus in past weeks. Since 2000, scientific and health systems innovations leading to much more effective and rapid TB diagnosis and treatment have warned 60 million deaths, according to the WHO.

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This article was first published on Health Policy Watch

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