BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
ZIMBABWE has made significant strides in reducing tuberculosis (TB) infections amid fears that the lung disease will claim over 28 million lives globally if concerted efforts to contain it are not made.
The stakeholders also said the cost of ending TB globally would be a staggering US$3 trillion.
This came out during a week-long virtual conference of international health stakeholders, where a United States study revealed that life expectancy would fall if TB mortality rates did not fall by 2030.
High TB mortality has affected around 120 countries, and might continue to do so in 2020 to 2050 if the disease is not curbed.
Presenters during the virtual conference said in order to reverse the estimated 28 million deaths from TB, there was need for countries to allocate more money towards the health sector.
The call comes at a time Zimbabwe is preparing its 2021 national budget to be announced next month by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube (pictured).
To effectively deal with diseases like TB and address several challenges affecting the sector, Zimbabwe has been urged to ensure that at least 15% of the 2021 national budget is allocated towards the health sector.
This also comes at a time most hospitals in the country are using obsolete equipment, while facing myriad of challenges that include shortages of drugs.
Although Zimbabwe is considered to be among the countries with a high burden of TB, it is said to have made commendable strides in reducing its prevalence, recording a reduction in incidence from 278 per 100 000 population in 2014 to 210 in 2018.
Due to donor support including the Global Fund, estimated treatment coverage now stands at 83%, up from 70% in 2014.
Sachin Silva of Harvard University told participants that failure to achieve the End TB targets by 2030 would have devastating economic impacts on countries with high prevalence of HIV and TB, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
Silva noted that the brief stoppage of TB programmes because of the COVID-19 pandemic was likely to have calamitous epidemiologic and economic consequences.
However researchers announced important new promising results which included new data from a clinical trial demonstrating that treatment time for people living with TB can be reduced by a third.
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