World Tuberculosis Day 2020 – It Is Crucial To Deepen TB Advocacy And Actions To Ensure Tuberculosis Does Not Become Totally Invisible During The COVID-19 Pandemic – Toyin Saraki, Founder, Wellbeing Foundation Africa
I was recently following the research findings of Madhukar Pai, Canada Research Chair of Epidemiology and Global Health at McGill University, Montreal Canada, where he called for a damage control plan for tuberculosis during the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. As the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic sweeps the world, the global health community working to fight TB have growing anxiety about what this pandemic will do to a much older infectious killer – tuberculosis (TB).
We know from the Ebola experience that epidemics can disrupt even basic services such as routine immunization. No doubt, COVID-19 will adversely affect all routine health services everywhere. But TB services is might be one of the biggest casualties. Why? Even before COVID-19, TB had a notorious track record as a ‘Captain of the Men of Death’. TB kills 4000 people each day, and 1.5 million people each year. TB is the leading killer of people living with HIV/AIDS. An estimated 10 million people developed TB in 2018, and nearly half a million people developed drug-resistant TB (DR-TB).
COVID-19 is a crisis of social solidarity and social investment. This applies to TB as well. It is crucial to deepen TB advocacy and actions to make sure TB does not become completely invisible during the COVID-19 pandemic. People are leaving no stone unturned to stop the coronavirus pandemic. If we show even half of this dedication towards ending TB, we can stop millions from dying from a preventable and curable disease.
I stand in solidarity with the Stop TB community as we support people affected by COVID-19. This World TB Day we support the fight against the new pandemic, share our lessons, experiences and tools so that united we can defeat it. We want to remind global leaders the urgency to invest in better and more resilient health systems, today more than ever we realise the need to end endemics like TB or COVID-19. To fight COVID19, we can use the tools needed to End TB: infection control, artificial intelligence, x-rays, contact tracing, telemedicine and psycho-social support.
Years of under-investment made tuberculosis and its drug resistant forms the biggest infectious disease killer with over 4000 deaths per day. We can’t afford to repeat these mistakes and be unprepared for pandemics like COVID19. Most TB survivors have gone through the isolation, fear, discrimination and stigma that we are facing with COVID 19. Let’s hear their voices and learn resilience from them. It’s Time To End TB. It’s time to recognize that people with #TB are vulnerable to COVID19, including prisoners, migrants, people living with #HIV, and those who are malnourished.
Healthcare workers are at the centre of the fight against diseases such as tuberculosis or COVID-19 – While most of us are at home, social distancing, the health workers leave their houses and families to ensure that people with TB get diagnosed, treated and cured and also battle COVID-19. I appreciate and applaud their efforts as frontline health heroes.
I join the Stop TB Partnership in calling on global leaders to join forces to protect people affected by TB and especially vulnerable populations from #COVID19. It’s time to ensure we #LeaveNoOneBehind #ItsTimeToEndTB