The World Health Organization warns the fight against tuberculosis is at a critical juncture. It says the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed gains made since 2000 in saving lives from the infectious disease. For the first time in over a decade, the WHO says TB deaths increased in 2020.
It says around 1.5 million people died of TB during that pandemic year because of disruptions in services and lack of resources. Most deaths have occurred in developing countries, with conflict affected countries across Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East at greatest risk.
The director of the WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Program, Tereza Kaseva, says an extra $1.1 billion a year is needed for the development of new tools, especially new vaccines, to achieve the goal of ending TB by 2030.
She says investing in the fight against tuberculosis is a no-brainer given the benefits gained for each dollar spent.
“For every one dollar invested to end TB, 43 is returned as the benefits of a healthier, functioning society…Ending TB by 2030 can lead to avoiding 23.8 million tuberculosis deaths and almost 13 trillion U.S. dollars in economic losses.”
The WHO says extra funding would allow the world to treat 50 million people with TB, including 3.7 million children and 2.2 million with drug-resistant TB. WHO officials say that would be particularly beneficial for children and young adults who lag adults in accessing TB prevention and care.
Team leader of vulnerable populations in the WHO’s global TB program, Kerri Viney, says 1.1 million children and young adolescents become ill with tuberculosis every year.