In 2020, more people died of TB, with far fewer people being diagnosed and treated or provided with preventive treatment compared with 2019, and overall spending on essential TB services falling, it noted.
It explained that the first challenge was disruption in access to TB services and a reduction in resources. In many countries, human, financial and other resources had been reallocated from tackling TB to COVID-19. The second was that people struggled to seek care during lockdowns.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus observed in a release, “This report confirms our fears that the disruption of essential health services due to the pandemic could start to unravel years of progress against tuberculosis. This is an alarming news that must serve as a global wake-up call to the urgent need for investments and innovation to close the gaps in diagnosis, treatment and care for the millions of people affected by this ancient but preventable and treatable disease.”
TB services are among many others disrupted by COVID-19 in 2020, but the pandemic’s impact on TB has been particularly severe. Approximately 1.5 million people died from TB in 2020 (including 2,14,000 among HIV positive people).
The increase in the number of TB deaths occurred mainly in the 30 countries with the highest burden of the disease. WHO modelling projections suggest that the number of people developing TB and dying from the disease could be much higher in 2021 and 2022.
“Challenges with providing and accessing essential TB services have meant that many people with TB were not diagnosed in 2020. The number of people newly diagnosed with TB and those reported to national governments fell from 7.1 million in 2019 to 5.8 million in 2020,” the WHO disclosed.