By Aisha Tamba
Infectious disease Tuberculosis is falling globally, according to the WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso R Moeti.
She said the WHO Global TB Report report indicates that the number of cases continue to decline and fewer people died since 2017.
Moeti said even though the killer disease is on the decline in all WHO regions, it is not falling “fast enough to reach the first milestones of the ‘End TB Strategy’ in 2020.
The WHOs post2015 End TB Strategy, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2014, aims to end the global TB epidemic as part of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals.
Ms Moeti said the theme for this year’s celebration, It’s Time, is an opportunity to reflect on the advances that have been made in recent years but also on what remains to be done to end the scourge of TB in regions and around the world.
“In my message on World TB Day last year, I called on governments and civil society leaders at all levels to take leadership in combating the TB epidemic in our region,” Moeti equipped. “Following the high-level gathering of world leaders, policy-makers and civil society organisations at the UN High-level meeting on TB in September 2018, all stakeholders are now aware that an urgent global response is needed to a global epidemic,” she stated.
Dr Moeti added that in the African region, TB is a major challenge to development, and causes untold human suffering.
“It also threatens the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” she said.
She said to sustain these advances, current levels of investment by national governments towards TB care and prevention must be increased as they currently fall “far short of levels required to end the epidemic” as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Likewise, efforts must be made to identify and remove the challenges that are slowing down progress, as well as adopt and roll out the most cost-effective policy options and interventions.”
She noted that building on the successes of the recent past and fulfilling the commitments made by the political leaders, national governments need to adopt policy and programmatic actions to foster a multi-sectoral response to end the epidemic.
“As regional director of WHO in the African Region, I re-affirm the commitment of my office and that of all my technical staff across the region to work with governments, other partners and communities to support the above actions towards ending the TB epidemic by 2030, if not earlier. ‘It’s time to end this suffering and bring hope to TB patients and their families,” Ms Moeti said.
World Tuberculosis Day, observed on 24 March each year, is designed to build public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis and efforts to eliminate the disease. In 2012, 8.6 million people fell ill with TB, and 1.3 million died from the disease, mostly in low and middle-income countries.