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March 24, 2020

Call to bridge funding and implementation gaps in way to TB control

Islamabad

March 24, 2020

Islamabad:Pakistan is observing World TB Day today (March 24) in a somewhat low-key manner due to restrictions clamped in view of the COVID-19 epidemic. Efforts are, however, afoot to ensure that the country does not lose sight of another silent epidemic that claims close to 4,500 lives in Pakistan every month. At the moment, there are two key challenges impeding the fight against TB; one, missed TB cases in excess of 200,000, and two, monetary gap in financing the National Strategic Plan for TB Control.

In a message on the occasion, Parliamentary Secretary for Health Dr. Nausheen Hamid has called for bridging the gap in the numbers of missing TB cases exceeding 200,000 and has called on the general public to avail the free diagnostic and treatment facilities established by the federal and governments on manifesting any symptoms of the disease.

The SAPM on Health’s Adviser for TB Dr. Syed Karam Shah has called for bridging the monetary gap in financing the National Strategic Plan for the program on an emergency basis. The National TB Control Program Manager Dr. Aurangzaib Quadir has assured that the programme is expanding its facilities through robust public-private partnership to ensure timely attainment of national objectives in this regard.

To commemorate the day virtually but effectively, the Ministry of National Health Services, the National TB Control Programme, and Dopasi Organization have organized a social media campaign featuring messages from dignitaries, celebrities and TB survivors; as well as public service messages, and television and radio talk shows. The latter has organized the entire Kohsar Block of the Pakistan Secretariat housing the Ministry of Health and several other ministries to be floodlit with red color to demonstrate solidarity with TB patients, while highlighting the need for physical distancing and social solidarity with persons suffering from communicable or non-communicable diseases, who are more at risk for contracting COVID-19.

The Dopasi Organisation has also brought about the engagement of celebrities, renowned legends and media personalities like Kanwal Naseer, Sania Saeed, Farooq Qaiser (of Uncle Sargam fame) and play actor Imran Abbas in drawing up public service messages and carrying out advocacy in an appealing manner for rapid elimination of TB, which is the leading cause of death among infectious diseases and among the top 10 causes of death globally.

Globally, an estimated 10.0 million people fall ill with TB every year. The burden of disease varies enormously among countries; however, the disease generally affects more men but has more devastating social consequences for women. Pakistan account for 6% percent of the global TB burden. The country develops around 560,000 new cases of the disease every year, while over 50,000 cases die annually. Out of these, while roughly 360,000 cases are identified and mostly cured by the national and provincial TB control programs, 220,000 of the cases go missing and infect other persons. The proportion of latent TB infection without symptoms in Pakistan is estimated at 30-40% of the overall population. Most of the drug resistant TB cases in the country also go undetected

World TB Day hinges around educating the public about the health and socio-economic impact of the disease, share successes in TB prevention and control, and raise awareness of the challenges that hinder progress toward its elimination. The theme of World TB Day 2020 is ‘It’s TIME,’ signifying the need to urgently accelerate the TB response to save lives and end suffering, building on commitments by heads of state at the 2018 UN High-Level Meeting on TB.