The world must invest more to develop new vaccines and tackle a surge in tuberculosis (TB) fuelled by the impact of COVID-19 and conflicts including in Ukraine and Sudan, health officials and activists say.
“End TB now,” chanted protesters at a crowded meeting of top United Nations health leaders on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York.
Speeches were made by TB sufferers and UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed spoke about how her father passed on tuberculosis to her two-year-old sister. The disease claimed his life at age 60 but her sister, now 50, is a survivor.
“Tuberculosis is the biggest infectious disease killer in the world today, taking the lives of around 4,400 people every day around the world, including 700 children,” said Dr Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the Stop TB Partnership, at the gathering.
Mohammed said the global response to tuberculosis has saved 74 million lives since 2000. But in 2021 alone, the disease infected more than 10.5 million people and killed 6.1 million. It is now the leading cause of death for people with HIV.
The TB epidemic is driven by a host of factors, including poverty, malnutrition and HIV, and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in all countries, Mohammed said, stressing these drivers of the disease must be addressed.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a video addressing the meeting that COVID-19 “turned our world upside-down” for three years, and in addition to the millions of deaths, it deprived millions of people of essential health services, including for tuberculosis.