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Low funding, COVID-19 curtail tuberculosis fight in Africa: WHO

The African region is home to 17 of the 30 high-burden tuberculosis countries globally

Brazzaville, Congo | Xinhua | Inadequate investment and funding for tuberculosis control in Africa is jeopardizing the efforts to meet the global target of ending the disease by 2030, as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to roll back progress made so far on the continent, said the World Health Organization (WHO) Thursday.

With only 56 percent of the annual budget of 1.3 billion U.S. dollars for Africa’s tuberculosis prevention and treatment accounted for, the rest of the budget remains unfunded, seriously undermining the efforts to eliminate the disease, warned the WHO Regional Office for Africa.

According to the WHO, underfunding for TB programs has a significant impact on disease detection, as only 56 percent of cases in Africa were detected and enrolled on treatment between 2015 and 2020.

With 549,000 reported deaths related to TB in 2020, up around 2,000 over 2019, the increase of newly detected TB cases also fell in high burden African countries due to disruptions by the COVID-19 pandemic on health services, warned the WHO.

“Africa has so far made good progress against tuberculosis, and we cannot afford to lose focus on what is needed to ease the burden and save lives,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti.

The African region is home to 17 of the 30 high-burden tuberculosis countries globally. The estimated 2.5 million cases in the region in 2020 accounted for a quarter of the global burden, with more than half a million African lives lost to this curable and preventable disease.

Under the WHO End TB Strategy, countries should aim to reduce TB cases by 80 percent and cut deaths by 90 percent by 2030 compared with 2015. The strategy also sets key milestones that countries should cross by 2020 and 2025 if they are to end the disease.

The 2025 milestone seeks a 50 percent reduction in cases and a 75 percent decline in deaths. TB cases should drop by 10 percent every year to meet the 2025 target, yet the current rate of decline in cases only stands at 2 percent.

“The road to ending tuberculosis is likely to get long and hard as key milestones risk being missed. Countries must scale up and speed up the response and stay committed to alleviating the suffering and death caused to millions of people due to tuberculosis,” said Moeti.

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Xinhua

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