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2.5 million Africans Contracted TB in 2022 – WHO

The Regional Director for Africa, World Health Organisation, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said about 2.5 million individuals contracted Tuberculosis in 2022 in Africa, equating to one person every 13 seconds.

Moeti also said the number of TB deaths in 2022 reached 424,000, resulting in the loss of one life every minute – even when TB is preventable and treatable.

She said this in her message to commemorate the World TB Day.

World Tuberculosis Day is marked on March 24 every year to create awareness about the impact of the disease.

According to the WHO, TB is a disease caused by a bacterium (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that often affects the lungs.

The disease is spread through the air when people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit. A person needs to inhale only a few germs to become infected.

WHO said a total of 1.3m people died from TB in 2022, including 167,000 people with HIV. Globally, TB is the second leading infectious killer after COVID-19 (above HIV and AIDS).

The global health body stated that an estimated 10.6m people fell ill with TB worldwide in 2022, including 5.8m men, 3.5m women and 1.3m children.

Moeti said since the 72nd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa in Lomé, Togo, in 2022, there has been a 20 per cent increase in identified paediatric TB cases compared to the previous year.

“This signifies a positive step, indicating a more practical approach to recognizing TB in children and a decisive push to end this ancient disease.

“Today, we reflect on our progress while recognising the challenges in our efforts to eliminate it as a public health threat.

“TB continues to be the second leading cause of death from a single infectious agent, surpassing the toll of HIV/AIDS. According to the latest report, about 2.5 million individuals contracted TB in 2022 in the region, equating to one person every 13 seconds.

“Additionally, the number of TB deaths in 2022 reached 424,000, resulting in the loss of one life every minute—even when TB is preventable and treatable. These figures underscore the urgency of our collective action in addressing the ongoing TB epidemic and highlight the need for sustained efforts to end it,” she said.

She stated that the WHO African Region supports member states’ fight against TB in Africa by setting strategic directions, developing monitoring tools, like the African TB scorecard with the African Union, and ensuring progress towards the End TB Strategy.

She also stated that the organisation is dedicated to generating and sharing knowledge on effective TB control methods.

“We support countries by updating TB treatment guidelines to reflect the latest practices and expanding access to rapid diagnostic tools. Emphasising the importance of regional cooperation, the WHO African Region encourages knowledge exchange and collaborative efforts across countries, significantly advancing the mission to eliminate TB as a public health threat in Africa.

“In the WHO African Region, we celebrate another milestone: diagnosing 70 per cent of TB patients, marking a substantial reduction in missed cases and propelling us closer to our goal. This achievement is a testament to the relentless efforts of our Member States and partners, showcasing what can be accomplished through a shared vision and concerted action.

“Between 2015 and 2022, our region achieved a remarkable 38 per cent reduction in TB deaths, surpassing the initial End TB Strategy milestone of 35 per cent by 2020. From 2015 to 2022, the region also saw a 23 per cent reduction in new TB cases, exceeding the initial End TB Strategy target of 20 per cent by 2020. All this underscores the effectiveness of implemented strategies and renewed commitment from countries,” she added.

She, however, noted that while the reduction in TB deaths is commendable, it still falls short of the 2025 End TB Strategy target of a 75 per cent reduction.

According to her, the 23 per cent decline in TB incidence mises the mark of the 50 per cent reduction target for 2025.

Hence, she highlighted the need for continued and intensified efforts to meet these ambitious goals.

“Challenges such as delayed diagnosis, limited access to new tools and technologies, and the ongoing threat of multi-drug resistant TB require continued vigilance and sustained efforts.

“Stakeholders can join us by providing resources, enhancing community engagement, conducting research, and forming private-sector partnerships. Through this unified action, we can address the challenges of TB in Africa and achieve our goal of its elimination as a public health threat.

“I urge all our Member States to prioritize a multi-faceted approach that addresses the root causes of the disease while bolstering our efforts in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

” I urge health leaders to intensify their commitment to strengthening health systems, ensuring equitable access to TB care, and scaling up innovative interventions,” she concluded.