World TB Day celebrated today


The World Tuberculosis Day will be commemorated on 24th March across the world, including Pakistan, to reiterate commitment to save lives from a preventable disease.
WHO Representative Dr Guido Sabatinelli has called for efforts to contain the disease and to provide a tuberculosis-free world to future generations.
He said in a country with the fifth highest number of tuberculosis cases and a high prevalence of drug resistant tuberculosis, there can be no room for complacency.
He expressed satisfaction over the efforts of the national and provincial TB control programmes and assured the absolute support of the WHO in this regard.
He pointed out that the WHO had supported operational research that will ascertain the correct prevalence and incidence of the disease.
Elaborating about the WHO’s support to the National Tuberculosis Control Programme, Dr Sabatinelli said his organisation carries out programme evaluations through the Annual Joint Review Missions, providing technical support to laboratory services, human resource capacity building through regional and country level training, data management, procurement of equipment, emergency financial support for the procurement of drugs and operational research.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has described TB as a neglected disease which has caused much suffering and is yet to be controlled.
He also urged communities to benefit from the availability of TB treatment which could help prevent and finally stop TB and called for intensified global solidarity driven actions in the fight against the disease.
The secretary general has also written to President Asif Ali Zardari and the heads of state of other countries that have a high burden of TB cases, urging them to enhance attention and commitment to TB control.
The World Tuberculosis Day activities this year have been themed around ‘Stop TB in my Lifetime’ reflecting a desire on the behalf of every individual to see the end of this century-old though easily preventable and treatable disease.
The theme also urges action on a neglected area in TB control namely the TB virus that affects children.
WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region Regional Director Dr Ala Alwan in his message on TB Day appreciated the hard work of everyone involved in the fight against the disease as many countries have been successful in detecting more TB cases, expanding care for the multi drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) like complex forms of the disease and progressively moving ahead towards MDG targets through innovative partnerships.
However, Dr Alwan also warned of threats faced by TB control posed by declining financing from donors like the Global Fund.
WHO HQ Stop TB Department Director Dr Mario Raviglione praised global progress in TB control, saying that death rates by 40 percent overall as compared to 1990.
He added that to a large extent, children had been left behind, and childhood TB remained a hidden epidemic in most countries.
WHO National Professional Officer for TB Control Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi highlighted the urgency of the matter and emphasised that it was an effort to increase the case detection rate as TB control can possibly be one of the Millennium Development Goals that Pakistan can hope to achieve by the targeted date of 2015.
With an estimated population of around 180 million, the annual incidence of tuberculosis in Pakistan is 231 per 100,000 people, indicating that 420,000 new cases are reported every year. During 2011, 270,422 cases, approximately half of which were women, were detected.
Many of these have completed or are undergoing treatment while the treatment success rate in 2010 was 91 percent with a low default rate of 3 percent.
Although the Pakistani government adopted the TB-DOTS strategy in 1995, it was not implemented until 2000-2001.
The real impetus to the programme came after the adoption of the Islamabad Declaration on 24th March 2001 calling upon the government and all its partners to carry out a crusade against tuberculosis.
Substantial progress has been achieved in the intervening 12 years giving rise to a fair degree of optimism.
However, with a prevalence of TB patients over 700,000 and the drug-resistant strains of TB increasing, all the stakeholders in TB control in Pakistan will need to accelerate the fight against the disease with absolute dedication in order to secure a better and hopefully TB-free nation for our children.