New Union report exposes silent epidemic of child TB

Launched at side meeting of the World Health Assembly

The Union launched a new report today, Silent Epidemic: A Call to Action Against Child Tuberculosis, calling for urgent action to protect children from tuberculosis (TB).

Worldwide, one million children under the age of 15 develop TB and 239,000—nearly one in four—die annually. Yet most of these deaths are treatable and preventable with simple, cost-effective public health measures.

This massive toll of deaths among children results from systematic disregard for children’s rights to health. Within global public health, it is an open secret that health systems neglect children with TB because children are less contagious than adults— stopping the spread of TB is a priority—and because the standard tools used to diagnose TB work less well in children.

The report was launched at a side event of the 71st World Health Assembly hosted by The Union, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies, and KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation.

Speaking at the event, said Dr. Paula I Fujiwara, Scientific Director, The Union said:

“Children with TB rarely die when they receive standard treatment for the disease - of the 239,000 children who die from TB every year, 90 percent of those were left untreated. This neglect can no longer be excused on grounds of economy or expediency. TB is preventable, treatable, curable. The continuing medical neglect of child TB, resulting in millions of avoidable deaths, constitutes a human rights violation by any reasonable measure.”

The full report can be downloaded and read in digital form at ChildTB.theunion.org

The side meeting saw an expert panel chaired by Dr Kitty van Weezenbeek of KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, discussed the priorities for the UN High-Level Meeting on TB later this year.

The expert panel of women included Dr M. P. Matsoso, Director General of Health of South Africa; Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of the WHO Global TB Programme; Joanne Carter, Executive Director of RESULTS and RESULTS Education Fund; Vidhya Ganesh, Deputy Director, Programme Division, UNICEF and Dr Paula I Fujiwara from The Union.

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