World Tuberculosis Day is March 24 to call attention to the devastation the disease causes and to mobilize action to combat it. USAID, in partnership with Afghanistan’s National Tuberculosis (TB) Control Program, the Tuberculosis Control Assistance Program, the World Health Organization (WHO) and international partners, will observe World Tuberculosis Day on March 27, to call attention to the devastation the disease causes and to mobilize a united and cohesive approach of action to combat it. The Ministry of Public Health and more than 310 heath facilities in 19 provinces will observe the day with quizzes for children, sports competitions, and other community events.
According to the WHO Global TB Control Report in 2009, Afghanistan is one of the 22 high burden countries. The frightening growth of drug-resistant strains of TB—some of which cannot be treated—make the case for combating the disease even more compelling. The WHO estimates that there are 46,000 new TB cases every year in Afghanistan, of which, more than 20,000 go undetected. Unlike most other countries, the majority of all detected cases occur among women and girls (sixty-eight percent).
“Even though a cure for drug susceptible TB has existed for more than half a century, tuberculosis remains a major public health threat,” said USAID Acting Mission Director Robert Hellyer. “USAID is proud to partner with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health and the international community to bring new tools to the field, including drugs, diagnostics, and improved approaches to reduce the burden of the disease in the country.”
Globally, deaths from TB declined 35 percent between 1990 and 2009, and prevalence decreased 14 percent. This is in large part due to a global effort and large-scale implementation of the Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) strategy and involvement/engagement of public, private, and community sectors. USAID supports Afghanistan’s National TB Control Program to improve the quality of DOTS and expand DOTS at the community level and to public and private health facilities in urban Kabul.
TB has always been the signature disease of the urban poor. In a world that is urbanizing at a rate of 200,000 people every day, we must fight TB now before it becomes an unparalleled global killer. Through President Obama’s Global Health Initiative, the United States makes major investments to prevent and control TB where the burden of the disease is highest. USAID is working in 40 countries with national TB control programs to deliver high-quality services to detect and treat TB earlier to prevent new cases and the development of drug resistance. The programs are improving access and the quality of services in the public, private and community sectors.
TB is treatable and curable when individuals have access to quality diagnosis and treatment. Promising new diagnostic tools are being introduced to help diagnosis TB patients quicker and determine resistance to the main anti-TB drugs. With a continued focus on invention and innovation, it is estimated that the global health community can cure 28 million people infected with TB by 2016.
On World Tuberculosis Day, USAID remains committed to working with countries and the international community to successfully implement the Global Plan to stop TB. The lives of millions of people across the globe depend on true international cooperation to close the chapter on TB once and for all.