Health ministers of 11 WHO Southeast Asian region (SEAR) member states including health minister, Tandin Wangchuk signed the “Call for Action” on March 16 in New Delhi, India.

The member states committed to scale up efforts and end tuberculosis (TB) by 2030 with innovative, multi-sectoral and comprehensive measures.

TB is the leading cause of death in the region, reportedly claiming around 800,000 lives in 2015 from the productive age group of 15-49 years. The Southeast Asian region bears nearly half the global TB burden of the total 10.4 million estimated cases of TB in the world. Around 4.7 million cases (45.6 percent) of the TB cases are from the Southeast Asian region.

Though the member countries are making constant efforts to reduce the annual TB incidence, which currently has fallen by 1.5-2 percent, it is insufficient.

According to WHO SEAR, the decline in the incidence rate needs to be scaled up to at least 10-15 percent for the member countries and the region to meet the End TB targets of reducing TB mortality by 90 percent and incidence by 80 percent by 2030.

During the meeting, WHO SEAR called for exceptional action and high-impact interventions in the region to lead implementation of national TB responses in the member countries. The meeting called for setting up of regional innovation to implementation fund to accelerate sharing of knowledge, intellectual resources and innovations to reach out to treat all cases.

The meeting also talked about emulating best practices in taking up comprehensive TB treatment and prevention programmes while improving quality and making facilities people-centred. The need to accelerate progress with rapid adoption of advanced diagnostics and treatment were also discussed in the meeting.

The WHO SEAR highlighted that investments in ending TB are expected to give huge returns, with more than 11 million lives expected to be saved. By 2035, nearly 60 million infections could be prevented in the region. This will also translate to social and economic growth by averting nearly 300 million Disability Adjusted Life Years.

Staff reporter