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Check TB monster

LIKE other parts of the globe, World Tuberculosis (TB) Day was
also observed in Pakistan on Sunday to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences and to step up efforts to eliminate the disease. Health Minister Aamer Kiani led an awareness walk and on the occasion talked about the measures being taken by the Government to improve health conditions.
The available data indicates TB has become a monster and it needs to be tackled urgently. Annually around 430,000 people including 15,000 children contract TB in Pakistan while not less than 70,000 deaths every year can be attributed to the disease in the country. Despite the fact that provincial governments are running TB Control Programmes for decades, the situation has not improved as it should have been and the figures published by the World Health Organization should be eye-opener for the authorities concerned. Pakistan, with an estimated 510 000 new TB cases emerging each year and approximately 15 000 developing drug resistant TB cases every year, is ranked fifth among the high-burden countries worldwide and it accounts for 61% of the TB burden in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region. It is all the more alarming that checking spread of TB does not seem to be the priority of the Government as is evident from the remarks made by the Minister who hoped that the disease ‘would be eliminated by 2030’. WHO has identified “delays in diagnosis, unsupervised, inappropriate and inadequate drug regimens, poor follow-up and lack of a social support programme for high-risk populations”. The situation can surely improve if federal and provincial governments, which have the necessary set-up in place, allocate necessary financial resources and keep a strict vigil on implementation of TB Control Programme. It is hoped that the policy-makers would focus on the issues and drawbacks pointed out by WHO so that the disease is controlled within the next two/three years and not in 12 years as the Minister is telling us.