WHO and Global Fund cite tuberculosis threat

stethoscopeThe World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria said strains of TB with resistance to multiple drugs could spread widely.

There is an annual need of at least $1.6 billion in international funding for treatment and prevention of the disease.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO, and Dr Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund, said the only way to carry out the urgent work of identifying all new cases of TB, while simultaneously making progress against the most serious existing cases, would be to mobilize significant funding from domestic sources and international donors.

A statement signed by Fadéla Chaib, WHO Communications Officer/ spokesperson, copied the Ghana News Agency on Thursday said with the overwhelming majority of international funding for tuberculosis coming through the Global Fund, it was imperative that efforts to raise money be effective this year.

It said growing alarm about the threat of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) was making that even more pressing.

“We are treading water at a time when we desperately need to scale up our response to MDR-TB. We have gained a lot of grounds in TB control through international collaboration, but it can easily be lost if we do not act now,” it quoted Dr Chan as saying.

The statement said WHO and the Global Fund had identified an anticipated gap of $1.6 billion in annual international support for the fight against TB in 118 low and middle income countries on top of an estimated $3.2 billion that could be provided by the countries themselves.

It said filling this gap could enable full treatment for 17 million TB and MDR-TB patients and save six million lives between 2014- 2016.

“It is critical that we raise the funding that is urgently needed to control this disease.

If we don’t act now, our costs could skyrocket; it is invest now or pay forever,” it cited Dr Dybul as saying.

It said Dr Chan and Dr Dybul spoke to the media in Geneva in advance of World TB Day on March 24, which commemorated the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch discovered the mycobacterium that causes TB.

The statement said while the Millennium Development Goal of turning around the TB epidemic has already been met, the two percent decline in the number of people falling ill with TB each year remained too slow.

It said two regions – Africa and Europe – were not on track to achieving the global target of halving the TB death rate between 1990 and 2015.

The statement said in 2011, 1.4 million people died due to TB, the greatest per capita death rate in Africa; MDR-TB presents a major threat, with an estimated 630,000 people ill worldwide with this form of TB today.

It said WHO worked with Global Fund and Stop TB Partnership to support selected high TB burden countries in reviewing their priorities for the next three years and estimating available funding and gaps.

The statement said estimates had been made for 118 countries eligible for Global Fund support; of the $1.6 billion gap in donor financing, almost 60 percent is for WHO’s Africa region.

It said in the 118 countries, there were four priority areas for domestic and international investment to drive down deaths, alleviate suffering, cut transmission and contain spread of drug resistance.

“In addition to the $1.6 billion annual gap in international financing for the critical implementation interventions above, WHO and partners estimate that there is a $1.3 billion annual gap for TB research and development during the period 2014-2016, including clinical trials for new TB drugs, diagnostics and vaccines,” the statement said.

Source: GNA

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