EHS-COVID (448) WHO: Tuberculosis deaths rise for the first time in more than a decade due to the COVID-19 pandemic

21 October, 2021

Opening paragraphs below and a comment from me. Read online:


WHO: Tuberculosis deaths rise for the first time in more than a decade due to the COVID-19 pandemic

14 October 2021 News release Reading time: 5 min (1368 words)

The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed years of global progress in tackling tuberculosis and for the first time in over a decade, TB deaths have increased, according to the World Health Organization’s 2021 Global TB report.

In 2020, more people died from TB, with far fewer people being diagnosed and treated or provided with TB preventive treatment compared with 2019, and overall spending on essential TB services falling.

The first challenge is disruption in access to TB services and a reduction in resources. In many countries, human, financial and other resources have been reallocated from tackling TB to the COVID-19 response, limiting the availability of essential services.

The second is that people have struggled to seek care in the context of lockdowns.

“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,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is 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.”


COMMENT (NPW): It should be added that even where people can access care, the quality of that care is not assured. Previous research has shown that 'More than 9 in 10 prescriptions for tuberculosis in India are incorrect, predisposing those patients and the general population to multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis in the future.' Part of the reason for this is that health workers' needs, including their information needs, are not adequately supported.

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator,