Deaths from tuberculosis INCREASED in 2020 for the first time in 15 years as Covid pandemic ‘reversed years of global progress’, WHO reports 

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  • A new WHO report shows 1.5 million global TB deaths in 2020, an increase of 1.4 million in 2019
  • This is the first year in which TB deaths have increased year-on-year since 2005.
  • Funding for TB diagnosis decreased last year amid the pandemic, and missed critical funding targets for treatment research and development
  • The world missed the five-year case and death reduction targets last year, reducing only cases by 11%, missing the 20% target, and deaths by 9.2%, the target was 35%

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The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed in a new report that for the first time in more than a decade, global tuberculosis (TB) deaths increased last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, TB caused 1.5 million deaths, up from 1.4 million deaths from the bacterial disease a year earlier.

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This is the first time since 2005 that TB deaths have increased year-on-year worldwide.

Experts agree that the amount of medical resources invested in Covid last year – drawing resources from elsewhere – and the disruption in medical treatment during the pandemic are behind the increase.

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For the first time since 2005, there was a year-on-year increase in tuberculosis deaths in 2020, rising to 1.5 million globally compared to 1.4 million a year earlier. WHO officials believe this is a sign of a reversal of years of progress. Image: Chest X-ray of a person with TB

“This report confirms our fears that disruption to essential health services due to the pandemic could begin to highlight years of progress against tuberculosis,” WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news release.

‘This is alarming news that should serve as a global wake-up call for the urgent need for investment and innovation to close the gaps in diagnosis, treatment and care for the millions affected by this ancient but preventable and treatable disease. .’

The release also referred to the pandemic as being a ‘reversal year of global progress in tackling tuberculosis’.

TB is a very serious infection in which the bacteria attack a person’s lungs and can spread to the rest of the body.

According to report good, released on Thursday, WHO estimates that 10 million people, including 1.1 million children, were infected worldwide – 86 percent of cases occurred in the 30 most ‘burdened’ countries.

Almost all of these, 98 percent, occur in low- or middle-income countries.

Countries with the highest burden include India – the global leader in TB cases with nearly 3 million annually – Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.

India is one of the countries most affected by TB, accounting for 3 million cases out of a million cases globally.  The South Asian nation is among the 30 'burden' countries that account for 98% of global TB cases.  Image: A TB patient in Gauhati, India, sits on his hospital bed on October 14

India is one of the countries most affected by TB, accounting for 3 million cases out of a million cases globally. The South Asian nation is among the 30 ‘burden’ countries that account for 98% of global TB cases. Image: A TB patient in Gauhati, India, sits on his hospital bed on October 14

Tackling the deadly situation has become a priority for the WHO and other health authorities globally.

Last year was a disappointing year in that battle, however, as health officials lost ground on several fronts.

Global funding for TB diagnostic treatment fell from $5.8 billion in 2019 to $5.3 billion in 2020 – both figures well short of the $13 billion investment target set by the WHO.

Investment in research and development of treatments for drugs is also lacking, with only $900 million being invested globally – less than half of the $2.2 billion target.

The world also missed some important TB reduction goals last year.

The WHO has set a target to reduce the number of global TB deaths by 35 percent from 2015 to 2020.

The key five-year target of reducing global TB cases and deaths has been missed in 2020.  Cases decreased by only 11% over a five-year period, missing the target of 20%.  Deaths reduced by 9.2%, missed targets by 35%

The key five-year target of reducing global TB cases and deaths has been missed in 2020. Cases decreased by only 11% over a five-year period, missing the target of 20%. Deaths reduced by 9.2%, missed targets by 35%

According to official figures, there was only a 9.2 percent reduction in deaths during that time.

The organization also aimed to reduce the global number of Covid cases by 20 percent over that five-year period, but only a 11 percent drop in cases.

To get back on track, WHO is calling on governments around the world to invest more in fighting TB.

“The report calls on countries to take urgent measures to restore access to essential TB services,” the release said.

‘It calls for further redoubled investment in TB research and innovation, as well as concerted action to address the social, environmental and economic determinants of TB and its consequences in the health sector and others.’

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