Muscat – The Eastern Mediterranean Region is falling behind on Tuberculosis (TB) targets, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.
Between 2015 and 2020, the region had aimed to reduce deaths from TB by 35 per cent. However, only a six-per-cent reduction could be achieved, while in 2021 more than 85,000 people were reported to have died from TB in the region.
On the World Tuberculosis Day on Friday (March 24), WHO urged for more investments so as to find undetected TB patients and end the global TB epidemic.
“Finding all TB patients is key to ending the epidemic,” said Dr Ahmed al Mandhari, WHO’s Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.
“We have made an almost complete recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of disruption of services, but we need to step up the fight now and achieve our targets (in TB).”
Beyond its impact on health, TB has also devastating social and economic consequences. It thrives on poverty, malnutrition, HIV infection, diabetes and smoking.
“Fighting TB starts with the mission to trace infected people so that we can treat them. But we still miss more than a third of all people with TB in our region. All healthcare workers in the public and private sectors need to think about TB when they come across anyone with cough and fever,” Dr Mandhari advised.
To trace all patients with TB will require huge investments. However, only half of the countries’ needs have been met so far.
“We are grateful to our donors and partners, but we need to invest more in TB, including those through national health budgets. By increasing funding and by using it more efficiently, we can find more undetected TB patients by expanding universal health coverage and reduce TB mortality and increase productivity,” he added.
On World Tuberculosis Day, WHO urged all stakeholders to invest more to achieve the milestones and targets of the ‘End TB Strategy’, across sectors, with all partners, and with affected communities.
“This is our ambition, and this is the spirit of our regional vision of Health for All by All,” Dr Mandhari concluded.