World TB Day: Growing Progress Against a Global Threat

By Genelle Adrien

March 24, 2017

Do you remember what life was like when you were a child? Maybe you enjoyed running around with your friends kicking a soccer ball. Or, perhaps you couldn’t wait for Saturdays when you would play video games with your brothers and sisters. Now, imagine instead of doing the things you love, you were stuck inside with an unrelenting cough, chills, fever and fatigue. Or, imagine you are one of 10 million children orphaned by a preventable and curable disease. For kids with tuberculosis (TB), this is their reality.

TB is the deadliest infectious disease in the world—and children are especially vulnerable.

In 2015 alone, 1.8 million people died from TB. Of those, 170,000 were children. This number is likely to be much higher as it doesn’t include children with HIV (a common companion to TB), and cases of childhood TB are often under reported.

TB is described as a disease of the poor. It disproportionately affects people living in or close to poverty. Many families can’t afford treatment for TB and this equals missed days of work and missed days of school for children. This negative effects extends beyond families, and can have rippling effects in communities.

TB is a global challenge, but progress is being made every day.

Though the facts and figures above paint a grim picture of effects of TB, there is hope. Governments, organizations, health workers, researchers and community leaders, around the world, are uniting to end TB. And, they’ve made progress. New child-friendly TB medicines, global awareness campaigns and vaccines in development are just a few of the tools being used to fight TB.

Kenya, for example, became the first country to adopt new child-friendly TB medicines. Before these medicines, treating TB in children was difficult. Caregivers often had to crush or split up pills and guess at the right doses for children. Now, with the availability of medicines in the right does—and yummy and easy for children to take—more children can be effectively treated for TB. Over 30 countries have ordered more than 230,000 courses of these new medicines—enough to treat 90% of the world’s children with TB.
Equally as exciting are the number of campaigns, local and global, uniting groups and individuals and raising awareness about the disease. Last year, a coalition of 50 partners launched Louder than TB. Through social media activations and on-the-ground training and events, the campaign has reached millions of people across the globe. This year, our friends at UNICEF teamed up with the TB Alliance to get Louder than TB by inviting people to participate in an interactive installation in New York City and hear from TB leaders and survivors.

This is exciting work. Together, these advances, new campaigns and commitments from governments will help us succeed in the fight against TB. That way, more children can do the things they love and not live under the burden of TB.

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