The interruption of health services due to Covid ended years of fighting tuberculosis, with deaths on the rise for the first time in more than 10 years, the WHO warned on Thursday.
And the situation seems to be far from improving, as a growing number of people do not know that they have the disease, that it can be treated and cured, worries the World Health Organization, in its annual report on tuberculosis for 2020.
The WHO estimates that around 4.1 million people have tuberculosis but have not been diagnosed or have not been officially declared, a figure much higher than the 2.9 million in 2019.
The Covid-19 pandemic has reversed years of global progress in the fight against tuberculosis, a disease caused by the tubercle bacillus that most often affects the lungs.
According to the report, there were 214,000 TB deaths among people living with HIV last year (compared to 209,000 in 2019) and 1.3 million TB deaths among other people (compared to 1.2 million in 2019). That is, a total of about 1.5 million deaths, a situation that refers the world to 2017, worries the WHO.
Tuberculosis in the world (AFP – Romain ALLIMANT)
“This report confirms our fears that the disruption of essential health services due to the pandemic could begin to undo years of progress against tuberculosis,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in a statement.
“This is alarming news that should serve as a global wake-up call to the urgent need to invest and innovate to close the gaps in diagnosis, treatment and care for millions of people. People affected by this ancient but preventable disease and tractable”. added.
– India and Indonesia –
The increase in deaths jeopardizes the WHO strategy to reduce deaths from the disease by 90% and the incidence rate of tuberculosis by 80% by 2030, compared to 2015.
However, according to the organization’s projections, the number of people who develop tuberculosis and die from this disease could be “much higher in 2021 and 2022.”
A baby receives an injection of the tuberculosis vaccine on August 11, 2020 in Banda Aceh, Indonesia (AFP / Archives – CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN)
In addition to the confinements that have complicated patient access to health centers, the negative impacts of the pandemic on essential tuberculosis services are numerous, the Covid-19 vampirizes health personnel and financial and technical resources.
Thus, the number of people newly diagnosed and declared tuberculosis by the authorities fell to 5.8 million in 2020, compared to 7.1 million in 2019, which represents a drop of 18% compared to the level of 2012.
The countries that have contributed the most to the global reduction in TB notifications between 2019 and 2020 are India, Indonesia, the Philippines and China. These and 12 other countries accounted for 93% of the total global decline in notifications.
The supply of preventive treatment against tuberculosis has also suffered: some 2.8 million people had access to it in 2020, a reduction of 21% in one year.
Additionally, the number of people treated for drug-resistant TB has decreased by 15%, from 177,000 in 2019 to 150,000 in 2020, which is equivalent to only about 1 in 3 of those in need.
Global spending on TB diagnosis, treatment and prevention services also fell, from $ 5.8 billion to $ 5.3 billion, less than half of the global funding target for TB, the fight against disease, which is $ 13 billion per year by 2022.
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