Message of the Regional Director on the occasion of World Tuberculosis Day 2015

On 24 March 2015, the World Health Organization joins the rest of the international community in commemorating World Tuberculosis Day. The WHO message this year is “Gear Up to End TB”.

Every year, there is an estimated 9 million new TB cases worldwide but consistently 3 million cases are  either not diagnosed, not treated, or are diagnosed and not registered by national TB control programmes. Reaching, treating and curing all those with TB especially the vulnerable groups and communities is a critical part of the solution and we need to do more – including work across all sectors to prevent TB through poverty reduction and social protection and achieve universal health coverage.

Vulnerable populations include children and women, people living with HIV, people with diabetes, refugees, miners and ex-miners, prisoners and drug users whose access to basic health care services may be limited. The poor are also at risk, especially homeless persons and individuals living in densely populated communities.

Available information indicates that significant progress is being made to bring the TB epidemic under control in Africa. The previously increasing trend of TB cases has been halted and the Region is observing a declining trend of TB in the last four years.

In spite of this progress, TB continues to be a major public health concern. The African Region has the highest TB and TB/HIV co-infection rates in the world and the emerging challenge of drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) is yet to be adequately addressed.

Over the last 12 months, WHO estimates that TB was responsible for over half a million deaths in the Region. TB and TB/HIV spread is fuelled by among others; poor access to health services, lack of trained health care providers, and weak health care delivery systems.

I therefore call upon all countries and partners to intensify efforts to reach, treat, and cure everyone with TB and to pay special attention to underserved areas and vulnerable people. I urge the public to overcome TB barriers, correct misconceptions about the disease, and promote healthy behaviours.

Patients and their families must also adhere to TB treatments in order to improve cure rates, control the spread of infection, and minimize the development of drug resistance.

As we commemorate the World TB Day, I call on Governments to ensure that their TB control programmes fully embrace the “End TB Strategy” interventions. This calls for accelerated global efforts to find, treat and cure all people with TB. WHO will continue to support countries to strengthen the health systems to make this a reality. 

Thank you