Unfortunately, UN agencies have never put TB as their top priority, said Dr. Mario Raviglione

Manjari Peiris, Sri Lanka 
Dr Mario Raviglione
[First published in Asian Tribune, Sri Lanka/Thailand on March 30, 2019]
“There is no single country in the world which has ever eliminated tuberculosis (TB)- the number one infectious disease killer in the world. Asia and Africa respectively account for 60% and 25% of the global TB cases. Every year 10 million patients with TB are reported in the world and 1.6 million die of it, which amounts to nearly 4000 deaths per day. So we need to move fast to achieve elimination targets set by the World Health Assembly as part of the End TB Strategy”, stated Dr. Mario Raviglione, Director, Global Health Centre, University of Milan, and former Director, Global TB Program of the WHO, while speaking at a webinar organized by Citizen News Service (CNS) in the lead up to World TB Day 2019.

Dr Raviglione also shared the 5 main priorities listed in the recently published The Lancet Commission on Tuberculosis  on ‘Building a tuberculosis-free world’. According to Dr Raviglione it is of utmost importance to:
  1. Close the gap between people diagnosed and those treated. It means reaching all people with TB and providing them with TB care through patient centred services and also ensuring that patients participate and contribute in their care. This is providing universal access to everyone.
  2. Have people centric responses and engagement of civil society, community and affected population. This is crucial for building a movement where people are fully participatory. It also means reaching high risk populations with screening and prevention programs to address latent TB.
  3. Increase the resources required for research and implementation
  4. Accelerate the development of new tools by way of new diagnostics, therapies and vaccines for which a far bigger amount of funding is needed. 
  5. Show accountability at political level.
He further said that, “The main bottlenecks in achieving these priorities are political indifference and financial inadequacy. We need donor funding to be focused on low income countries that cannot make it at the moment. But countries like India, Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa need to invest much more on their domestic funding to make TB control sustainable in the long run. Otherwise no way are we going to eliminate TB”. Lack of multi sectoral approach is another big challenge that has to be faced. One of the proposals of the Lancet Commission is to build a framework of accountability that is not just for the health sector but is multi sectoral. For example, the nutrition of  people living in slums, is crucially influential in the fight against TB. We need an accountability system that measures what is achieved and what is not, in all countries. No accountability means no results. Unfortunately, UN agencies have never put TB as their top priority, said Raviglione.

He also appealed to the governments to make sure that the anti TB drugs put on sale in countries are of good quality and strictly regulated by authorities.

Manjari Peiris, Citizen News Service - CNS
March 30, 2019