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WHO declares Tuberculosis – ‘An Emergency’ in Afrca

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Tuberculosis as an emergency in Africa. It is killing more than half a million people every year. WHO Regional // Committee for Africa comprising health ministers from 46 Member States has declared tuberculosis an emergency in the African region. The deaths have quadrupled in the last few years.

A resolution was adopted today at the end of the Committee's fifty-fifth session in Maputo, Mozambique. The resolution wishes Member States in the African Region to commit more human and financial resources to strengthen DOTS programmes to fight the co-epidemic of TB and HIV. It will require US $2.2 billion in for TB control in Africa during 2006-2007.

"Despite commendable efforts by countries and partners to control tuberculosis, impact on incidence has not been significant and the epidemic has now reached unprecedented proportions,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo. “Urgent and extraordinary actions must be taken, or else the situation will only get worse and the TB targets in the Abuja Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved."

TB is second only to HIV/AIDS as a cause of illness and death of adults in the world and is responsible for nearly nine million cases of active disease and two million deaths every year. Africa has only 11% of the world's population but it accounts for more than a quarter of this global burden with an estimated 2.4 million TB cases and 540,000 TB deaths annually.

The four –fold increase is also due to the link between HIV and TB. Patients who are inflicted with HIV may see reactivation of TB in their system.

Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former South African President Nelson Mandela are survivors of the disease. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: "It is tragic that this disease has not been brought under control, because I am living proof that TB can be effectively treated and cured, the problem is huge and medical authorities cannot overcome it alone, they need help. A full course of TB drugs that costs 15 dollars will save the lives of TB patients - and in the case of people who are co-infected with HIV, extend their lives by precious years until ARVs become more widely available in Africa."

The specific actions called for by the Regional Committee to address the TB emergency are:

Improve the quantity and quality of staff involved in TB control;

Rapidly improve TB case detection and treatment success rates with expanded DOTS coverage at national and district levels;

Reduce the combined TB patient default and transfer out rates to 10% or less;

Scale up interventions to manage TB and HIV together, including increased access to anti-retroviral therapy for TB patients who are co-infected with HIV, and to chemo prophylaxis against TB for people with HIV;

Expand national TB partnerships, public-private collaboration and community participation in TB control activities.

According to WHO release, in the other four WHO regions of the world, TB trends are either stable or in decline and are on track to reach the MDG targets of halving TB prevalence and deaths by 2015.

For more information contact:

Samuel Ajibola Telephone: 258 (0) 82 097 2720 Email: ajibolas@afro.who.int

Glenn Thomas Anglophone media, Email: thomasg@who.int

Patrick Bertrand Francophone media, Telephone: +33 66 004 0442 Email: p.bertrand@noos.fr

Michael Luhan Telephone: +41 22 791 1379 Email: luhanm@who.nt
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