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.”
Impact on TB particularly severe
TB services are among many others disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, but the impact on TB has been particularly severe. For example, approximately, 1.5 million people died from TB in 2020 (including 214 000 among HIV positive people).
The increase in the number of TB deaths occurred mainly in the 30 countries with the highest burden of TB. WHO modelling projections suggest the number of people developing TB and dying from the disease could be much higher in 2021 and 2022.
WHO estimates that some 4.1 million people currently suffer from TB but have not been diagnosed with the disease or have not officially reported to national authorities. This figure is up from 2.9 million in 2019.