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Efforts To End Global Tuberculosis Epidemic Falling Short, Says WHO

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Countries around the world have to move faster in preventing, detecting and treating tuberculosis if global targets are to be met, said a report published by the World Health Organization.

At the United Nations and World Health Assemblies, it was agreed that countries will strive to reduce tuberculosis cases by 80 percent and tuberculosis deaths by 90 percent by the year 2030, compared to rates recorded in 2015.

"There must be a massive scale-up of efforts, or countries will continue to run behind this deadly epidemic and these ambitious goals will be missed," said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general.

According to the WHO's Global Tuberculosis Report for 2016, there are significant inequalities in how countries are tackling the epidemic, which affects access to current effective diagnosis, as well as treatment options that can speed up the decline of tuberculosis cases.

In 2015, efforts to curtail tuberculosis led to more than 3 million lives saved, but it turned out the problem was bigger than previously thought when new survey and surveillance data from India were factored in.

Aside from India, however, South Africa, Pakistan, Nigeria, China and Indonesia represent 60 percent of the total tuberculosis burden.

Last year, some 10.4 million new cases of the disease were estimated to have developed, but just 6.1 million of them were actually detected, which led to the official notification. The 4.3 million gap is there because cases are underreported or under-diagnosed.

In terms of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), three countries carry a major burden: the Russian Federation, China and India. Cases of MDR-TB in these countries alone account for almost half of all global cases.

Back in 2015, the WHO estimated that 480,000 people were afflicted with MDR-TB. Unfortunately, just one in every five people eligible for access to second-line treatment actually gets the treatment, putting cure rates at just 52 percent around the world.

In 2016, low- and middle-income countries will need $8.3 billion in investments for tuberculosis care and prevention. However, these countries are nearly $2 billion short of their target. If current funding levels don't improve, it is estimated that the gap will balloon to $6 billion by the year 2020.

Not to mention that the WHO is estimating that an additional $1 billion every year, at the minimum, will be needed if medicine, vaccine and diagnostic tool development is to be accelerated.

About 84 percent of financing available come from domestic sources but other countries also heavily rely on international aid.

According to Dr. Ariel Pablos-Mendez, assistant administrator for global health at the U.S. Agency for International Development, everyone plays a role in the effort but the developmental aid community, in particular, has to take the lead and generate more investments now or tuberculosis simply will not be eradicated.

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