World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is observed every year on March 24th as a means of creating awareness about TB, which remains one of the deadliest diseases in the world. In fact, each day, nearly 4000 people lose their lives to TB, and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.
This year and in the context of COVID-19 the theme of the World TB Day 2021 “The Clock is ticking” is here to remind us that the world is running of time to step up to end the global epidemic.
The COVID-19 had actually made the situation worse than it was before, especially to access to diagnosis and treatments for the most burdened countries.
According to a research published on Thursday by a coalition working to end TB, 12 months of Covid-19 has reversed 12 years of global progress against tuberculosis. “Due to the impact of the Covid pandemic on services, the number of people diagnosed and treated for TB in the worst-affected countries has dropped back to 2008 levels”, said Stop TB Partnership’s executive director, Lucica Ditiu.
Thus, we urge governments to start building back better and smarter interventions to address Covid, TB, and future airborne pandemics and to ensure that TB prevention and care are safeguarded in the context of COVID-19 and other emerging threats.
As Dr. Yassine Kalboussi from the MENA to Stop TB Network said: “Tuberculosis is not yet a political priority in the MENA region and community work and community outreach are not well defined in most of the countries, so It is important for countries to reflect on their health budget and to recognize the importance of human resources for health” and TB”.
It is also important to invest in community health systems as communities play an essential role in following up and monitoring the implementation of the Political Declaration of the UN High-Level Meeting on TB and holding stakeholders to account. Their role is also crucial to the scale and quality of policies and programs needed.
“Another issue regarding access to TB treatment is the impact of intellectual property rights on TB drugs in many of the African and MENA countries especially for the Bedaquiline used against the Drug-resistant TB (DR-TB)” said Mrs. Marwa El Harrar, Advocacy Officer at ITPC-MENA. In fact, despite the benefits of the drug and the Recommendations of WHO, high prices remain a significant barrier to have access to the treatment and the pharma Lab are still using a tricky strategy called ‘patent evergreening’ through the filing of additional and unmerited patents to extend monopolies on their drugs beyond the standard 20 years.
Preventing this patent barrier is expected to encourage TB drug manufacturers from India to enter the market with generics and supply bedaquiline at lower prices to national TB programs and TB care providers globally.
Today, we remind the world that we need to accelerate the End TB response and to support communities all around the region to mobilize sustainable financing for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of TB. The clock is really ticking and we have to continue our battle for global health rights and against stigma and discrimination!