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WHO: Lack of political will hampers fight against TB

World Tuberculosis Day was observed on Friday, 24 March and while great strides have been made in fighting the disease, WHO said a lot more still needs to be done, particularly in vulnerable communities.

A digitally colourised scanning electron microscopic image depicts a grouping of red-coloured, rod-shaped Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria which cause tuberculosis in human beings. Picture: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

CAPE TOWN – The director of the global Tuberculosis (TB) programme at the Wealth Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tereza Kasaeva said the political will in fighting the disease is still lacking.

On Friday, the world observed World Tuberculosis Day.

“2023 is the pivotal year to push forward the agenda towards ending TB as there are several high-level opportunities to raise visibility, increase political commitment, and enhanced investment for the TB response,” said Kasaeva.

Kasaeva revealed that 1.6 million people died of TB in 2021, while at least 400,000 people die of TB every day, worldwide.

She said that more focus should be placed on vulnerable communities.

Later this year, heads of state are expected to present their country’s plans and strategies to end TB at a high-level United Nations meeting in New York.

“WHO is calling for action on several fronts to ensure commitments made to end TB are achieved. First, we would like to call for high-level leadership and advocacy, heads of states will come together to deliberate on accelerating efforts to end TB.”

READ: Mashatile: Measures in place to fast-track TB recovery plan

Meanwhile, the Western Cape health department celebrated a 73% recovery rate of patients infected with the disease to mark World TB Day on Friday.

It said the success of its TB programme was achieved through collaborative efforts with communities by monitoring early diagnoses and ensuring patients completed their treatment.

The provincial health department’s spokesperson, Byron la Hoe said TB has been the leading cause of death in South Africa in the last decade.

“To help prevent new TB infections and to improve case detection, we are making progress through our multi-sector response plan with partners by raising awareness of TB and its harms to our society on rapid testing and diagnoses by ensuring clients can get early initiation of treatment.”

In a World TB commemoration event in Rustenburg on Friday, Deputy President Paul Mashatile called for an end to stigma and discrimination that continue to act as barriers that limit access to people getting screened for TB.

He said most South Africans don’t get screened for the disease as they fear being isolated by their communities should they be diagnosed with TB.

“We think it’s unacceptable that in 2023 we are still talking about stigma. We should therefore collectively champion interventions against social isolation associated with TB at community level.”



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