Ending TB appears elusive amid COVID-19 pandemic, funding shortfall: experts

2021-09-28 16:05:58 GMT2021-09-29 00:05:58(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

NAIROBI, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- The target of eliminating tuberculosis by 2030 appears elusive amid hiccups linked to COVID-19 pandemic and dwindling financial allocation by governments and multilateral lenders, health experts said at a virtual forum on Tuesday.

Lucica Ditiu, executive director of Stop TB Partnership said that funding shortfalls combined with pandemic shocks on the public healthcare system has undermined efforts to diagnose and treat the bacterial disease.

"We always knew that ending TB by 2030 was going to be an uphill battle, but COVID-19 and the reduced funding for TB have sent us rolling further down the hill than anyone could have expected," said Ditiu.

Data from Stop TB Partnership indicate that 1.2 million fewer people have been diagnosed and treated for TB in 2021, while only 6.5 billion U.S. dollars is available annually to support the disease fight, less than half of the commitments made at the UN High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis held in September 2018.

In addition, an estimated 5.7 million people received treatment for TB in 2020, a 21-percent drop from 2019.

Analysis from Stop TB Partnership indicates that achieving the UN High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis target of diagnosing and treating 40 million people by 2022 could be a mirage due to bottlenecks created by the pandemic.

Likewise, only about 20 percent of the UN target of treating 115,000 children with multi-drug-resistant TB is expected to be achieved by 2022 while less than 30 percent of the target of putting 24 million contacts of people with TB on preventive therapy is expected to be reached.

"The impact of COVID-19 has been severe, reversing hard-won gains in the fight against TB," said Tereza Kasaeva, Director of World Health Organization (WHO) Global TB Programme.

Kasaeva said that it was possible to reverse the dire situation subject to political goodwill and enhanced partnerships to boost financing toward national TB programs.

Experts said that TB interventions are some of the most cost-effective in the infectious diseases sphere, with every dollar invested in TB prevention and care likely to yield a return of 43 dollars.

Austin Obiefuna, executive director of Afro Global Alliance and incoming vice-chair of the Stop TB Partnership Board said that people-centered interventions coupled with fulfilling financial commitments is key to revitalizing the fight against communicable disease.

According to statistics from WHO, tuberculosis killed an estimated 1.4 million people globally in 2019. Enditem