Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. He can be reached on [email protected]
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on Friday announced that $57 million will be dedicated to urgently needed tuberculosis (TB) recovery efforts in seven high burden countries – South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Tajikistan, and Ukraine.
Alongside COVID-19, TB is the leading infectious disease killer, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, sickening ten million people and taking 1.4 million lives every year.
“To address the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on TB services, this assistance will strengthen simultaneous testing for both TB and COVID-19, improve TB diagnosis services, and identify TB cases through contact investigations and community screenings,” USAID said in a statement, adding that the commitment represents approximately 19 percent of its annual TB funding.
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Designed in collaboration with partner governments and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria’s TB catch-up plans, these initiatives will provide a foundation for high burden countries to recover lost ground in the global effort to end TB due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the 23 countries where USAID focuses TB programming, one million fewer people had access to TB diagnosis and treatment in 2020 than in 2019, as a result of COVID-19 and measures to control it, a 23 percent decline.
“COVID-19’s far-reaching impact on the global TB response is projected to sicken an additional 6.3 million people with TB and cause an additional 1.4 million TB deaths by 2025. The pandemic’s toll puts the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations at even more risk for both TB and COVID-19. People with COVID-19 and TB are about three times more likely to die than those with only TB,” USAID said.
It added that as the world’s largest bilateral donor leading the fight to end TB, “USAID remains committed to addressing both COVID-19 and TB, ultimately helping countries get back on track to putting 40 million people on TB treatment by 2022, a target set at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB.”
Since 2000, USAID and partners’ TB efforts are believed to have saved more than 60 million lives.