South East Asian countries to scale up efforts against TB

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New Delhi, March 16 (IANS) Health Ministers from the South Asian region — bearing half of the global tuberculosis (TB) burden — on Thursday pledged to scale efforts, implement adequate funds and take comprehensive measures to achieve global target to end the disease by 2030.

The ministers discussed setting up of a Regional Innovation to Implementation (I2I) fund for accelerated sharing of knowledge, intellectual resources and innovations to reach out and treat all cases.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also urged the countries to increase budgetary allocations to enable national TB plans to be fully funded.

“We need to make ending TB our central priority. The disease continues to be a leading cause of death and lost productive years in the crucial age group of 15-49 years causing catastrophic expenses, financial losses, outright impoverishment of individuals and households and massive aggregate costs to national economies,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia.

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She said that ending TB is paramount for health and development across the region.

In 2015, TB caused nearly 800,000 deaths in the region while an estimated 4.74 million new cases were reported.

Six of countries in the region — Bangladesh, DPR Korea, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand — are among the 30 high TB burden countries globally.

While countries in the region have been making efforts against TB, the annual decline in TB incidence, which is currently between 1.5 Per cent and 2 per cent, is insufficient and needs to be scaled up to at least 10 per cent to 15 per cent for the countries and the region to meet the End TB targets.

The global targets seek to reduce TB mortality by 90 per cent and incidence by 80 per cent by 2030.

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Committing to take exceptional action and high-impact interventions as per the Call for Action, the Ministers agreed to lead the implementation of the national TB response through an empowered body reporting to the highest levels of government.

Singh said countries also need to apply best practices in taking comprehensive TB treatment and prevention programmes to universal scale, while improving quality and making them genuinely ‘people-centred’.

“They need to tackle poverty, malnutrition, quality of healthcare services, sub-optimum living conditions and other socio-economic factors that fuel TB,” she said.

The investments in ending TB are expected to give huge returns, with more than 11 million lives expected to be saved and nearly 60 million infections expected to be prevented across the region by 2035.

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