The UN has said no fewer than 1.6 million people are killed annually by tuberculosis and the disease would cost about one trillion dollars in economic loss by 2050.
“Despite being curable and treatable, TB kills more than 1.6 million people every year and only about half the cases are diagnosed properly.
“The disease also takes an enormous financial toll on economies: it is estimated that TB will cost about one trillion dollars by 2030,” the UN said.
Secretary-General António Guterres said at an interactive dialogue with civil society groups that social drivers must be confronted in the fight against tuberculosis.
“Winning the fight against Tuberculosis requires that ‘social drivers’ of the disease especially poverty and inequality are tackled head on.
“Universal health care provides an ideal umbrella to build cohesion across the global health landscape, on financing, programming and accountability.
“Let us use these meetings as an opportunity to inform a new way of thinking and working; lifting TB beyond its traditional silo,” the Secretary-General said.
He urged greater efforts to provide universal health coverage and combat the growing threat of anti-microbial resistance.
Rising anti-microbial resistance is leading to growing cases of ‘multi-drug-resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB)’ where the two most powerful drugs used to fight TB, isoniazid and rifampicin, are rendered ineffective.
Miroslav Lajčák, the President of the General Assembly, who convened the meeting, stressed that knowledge of the disease and factors that complicate treatment have grown, but the world “cannot stop at just knowing.”
“We know we need more research and development for new drugs and treatments; we need more funding; we need universal access to diagnosis and coverage; and we need partnerships and accountability of all stakeholders,” he said.
The civil society dialogue is part of the preparatory process for a high-level meeting, to be held in September, on tuberculosis.
It comes a day before UN Member States start negotiations on the outcome document for the high-level meeting.
Lajčák said the meeting would exchange experiences and learn lessons to contribute to a joint vision of how to ‘End Tuberculosis by 2030’.