WHO, others launch roadmap to end childhood TB deaths

Okeoghene Oghenekaro, Nigeria 
(First published in News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on 2nd October 2013) 
World Health Organisation (WHO) in Washington DC on Tuesday launched the first ever roadmap designed to end childhood tuberculosis deaths globally, a report said. The report was published by an Indian-based online publication on global health issues, the Citizens News Service (CNS), made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Wednesday. It stated that the roadmap was launched by WHO, Stop TB Partnership, International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, also known as The Union and other partners.

The report,stated that WHO recently estimated that six per cent to 10 per cent of all TB cases were among children and that the number could be much higher because TB in children was often undiagnosed. The programme was titled: ``Roadmap for Childhood Tuberculosis: Towards Zero Deaths’’. According to The Union, ``the roadmap builds on what is already known about the disease to identify clear steps that can prevent these child deaths.’’

It said that the roadmap estimated that at least 120 million dollars per year would be needed to address childhood TB, including in children infected with both TB and HIV. It said that the amount was needed to improve detection, develop better medicines for children and integrate TB treatment into existing maternal and child health programmes.

According to Dr Mario Raviglione, the Director, Global Tuberculosis Programme with WHO, ``any child who dies from TB is one child too many. ``As we know, TB is preventable and treatable; this roadmap shifts our focus from the challenges we face to immediate actions we can take.’’ Mr Nicholas Alipui, Director of programmes, UNICEF, said that too many children with tuberculosis were not getting the treatment they needed. ``Most of these children live in the poorest, most vulnerable households. ``It is wrong that any child should die for want of a simple, affordable cure, especially where there are community-based options to deliver life-saving interventions."

Mr Luis Castro, Interim Executive Director, of The Union, said: ``If we can shift TB diagnosis and treatment out of specialised programmes into other existing maternal and child health activities, we can automatically gain reach and scale.’’

Castro said that combining that scale with investments in tools and medicine, would save ``10 of thousands of lives’’. The roadmap recommends 10 actions to be taken at national and global levels. They include participation of children and adolescents in research, policy development and clinical practices, collecting and reporting better data, including preventive measures. Others are development of training and reference materials on childhood TB for healthcare workers, and fostering local expertise and leadership among child-health workers at all levels of the health care system.

It also recommended engaging key stakeholders and establishment of effective communication and collaboration between the healthcare sector and other sectors to address the social determinant of health and access to care. The report further suggested the development of integrated family and community centred strategies to provide comprehensive and effective services at the community level. NAN reports that over 175 countries have signed a pledge, vowing to re-double efforts to keep children from dying of preventable causes, including tuberculosis.

Okeoghene Oghenekaro, Nigeria 
Citizen News Service - CNS
(First published in News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on 2nd October 2013)