Co-authored by Dr Suman Majumdar and Mark Rice. Read the full article on the Devpolicy Blog website.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is a global emergency, there is another infectious airborne disease that has at best similar or arguably worse impacts and is inextricably linked to poverty and lack of access to health care – tuberculosis (TB).
TB is both preventable and curable, yet in 2019 an estimated 10 million people contracted the disease, and 1.4 million died from TB, continuing its status as the largest cause of death of any infectious disease prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March 2019, The Lancet Commission on Tuberculosis concluded that the prospect of a TB-free world was a realistic objective that could be achieved with sufficient accountability and resources, and detailed the catastrophic consequences of failing to do this.
The recently released World Health Organization (WHO) Global TB Report 2020 and progress report on the implementation of the UN Political Declaration on Tuberculosis both demonstrate that most countries were making some progress in reducing the number of people falling ill with and dying from TB.
However, COVID-19 has stalled and is likely to reverse this progress, with TB services including testing, treatment and prevention disrupted during the pandemic. This has already led to a reduction in the number of people diagnosed with TB in 2020, which could lead to a dramatic increase in additional TB deaths.
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