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Clear evidence that investment in TB control works: WHO director general

Three of the world's six regions are expected to achieve tuberculosis (TB) control targets set by the World Health Assembly, according to a new report on the global status of the disease published ahead of World TB Day on March 24

'Global Tuberculosis Control 2006', a report brought out by the World Health Organisation, confirms that 26 countries have already met their TB control targets a year ahead of time, two of them being the high TB burden countries of the Philippines and Vietnam. The report also indicates that five other high-burden countries -- Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia and Myanmar -- should have reached their targets within the 2005 timeframe, though final confirmation will come at the end of 2006.

According to the report, brought out ahead of World TB Day on March 24, the region of the Americas, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific should reach targets set by the World Health Assembly to detect 70% of their TB cases and to successfully treat 85% of these cases by the end of 2005.

WHO Director General Dr Lee Jong-Wook said: "There is clear evidence that investment in TB control works. Even in low-income countries with enormous financial constraints, programmes are operating effectively and producing results. This same commitment needs to be replicated in African countries and other areas where funding and priority for TB control remains fragile."

The latest estimates released in the report suggest that 1.7 million people died from TB in 2004. There were also 8.9 million new cases of the disease in 2004, with the number of cases per capita rising at 1% per year globally as a consequence of the TB crisis in Africa -- a crisis attributed in part to complications due to HIV co-infection and poor health systems.

Eastern Europe, with its high prevalence of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), continues to have an adverse impact on global treatment success rates.

Despite the cost-effectiveness of TB control, there is concern that African leaders are still failing to seriously invest in TB control. The response to a declaration in 2005, of a TB emergency in Africa, has been for the most part sluggish. This latest report highlights the need for a much more rapid and vigorous response to the African TB emergency, including more ambitious plans that are backed up by more funding from African governments and donors.

Kenya is an example of one country that is responding to the emergency declaration's call for "urgent and extraordinary actions" to address TB and TB/HIV, says the WHO. "Kenya is determined to make a difference. We are taking a strong and decisive lead in TB control through our own national TB emergency plan. This is a strategic plan that lays out the actions and resources required to reduce the misery caused by unnecessary TB deaths," says Kenya's Minister of Health, Charity Kaluki Ngilu.

Prior to World TB Day, new initiatives and documents with the shared aim of improving access to TB treatment were put forward in Geneva, headquarters of the WHO. Among them is International Standards for Tuberculosis Care, describing a level of care that all health practitioners should follow, together with a new Patients' Charter for Tuberculosis Care outlining, for the first time, the rights and responsibilities of people with TB.

The increased momentum around TB control has been stimulated by commitments to the Global Plan to Stop TB, 2006-2015, which was launched in January 2006. However, for the plan to succeed in saving 14 million extra lives, the 10-year funding gap of US$ 31 billion must be bridged. This is equivalent to just US$ 2 a year from every person in the industrialised world.

To view the entire report, go to

InfoChange News & Features, March 2006