Global TB progress mired by scarce funding, Covid-19: WHO

Despite a steady progress in tackling tuberculosis (TB) across the world, global targets for its prevention and treatment will likely be missed due to insufficient funding and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, according to a latest World Health Organization (WHO) report.

The WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2020 released on Wednesday said that between 2015 and 2019, there was a 9 per cent reduction in TB incidence and a 14 per cent drop in deaths, together with high-level political commitments at global and national levels delivering results, reports Xinhua news agency reported.

However, about 14 million people were treated for TB in the period 2018-2019, just over one-third of the way towards the five-year target of 40 million for 2018-2022.

The WHO’s End TB Strategy, which has been adopted by all its members, aims for a 90 per cent reduction in TB deaths and an 80 per cent reduction in the TB incidence rate by 2030, compared to the 2015 baseline.

Milestones for 2020 included a 20 per cent reduction in the TB incidence rate and a 35 per cent reduction in TB deaths.

Funding is a major issue, according to the report.

In 2020, funding for TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care reached $6.5 billion, representing only half of the 13 billion target agreed by world leaders in the UN political declaration on TB.

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to further setbacks on access to TB service, as in many countries, human, financial and other resources have been reallocated from TB to the coronavirus response.

Data collated from over 200 countries has shown significant reductions in TB case notifications, with 25 to 30 per cent drops reported in three high burden countries, namely India, Indonesia, the Philippines, between January and June 2020, compared to the same six-month period in 2019, the report said.

These reductions in case notifications could lead to a dramatic increase in additional TB deaths, according to WHO modelling.

According to WHO statistics, about 85 per cent of TB funding in 2020 came from domestic sources, with Brazil, Russia India, China and South Africa providing 57 per cent of the global total.

The WHO has called for urgent action and investments to meet the global TB targets.

“Equitable access to quality and timely diagnosis, prevention, treatment and care remains a challenge. Accelerated action is urgently needed worldwide if we are to meet our targets by 2022,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.