Union response to the WHO 2018 Global Tuberculosis Report

The latest Global TB Report has been launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), just over a week before the first ever High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis (TB). Paul Jensen, Director of Policy and Strategy at The Union responds. 

"The WHO declared TB a global health emergency in 1993, and yet here we are all these years later and 10 million people a year are still getting TB."

"TB is the world’s leading cause of death from an infectious disease, and at the same time we’re grappling with a crisis of TB drug-resistance. The latest data out this week are showing stagnation in the international response to the TB epidemic. This is why The Union and civil society have supported the call for a High Level Meeting on TB, the first one ever, at the UN General Assembly this year. Next week in New York we need heads of state to take a stand, and then to put their leadership behind a new agenda for TB.


"For the first time WHO has included key prevention data in its report, and the statistics are unnerving and show that TB prevention exists in name only. Preventing TB is critical. If you’re treated for TB infection, it can protect you from developing the actual illness. But if you live in a household where someone has been diagnosed with TB, in most countries the health system is not even tracking whether you’ve been screened for TB infection. 

"A quarter of the world’s population is living with a TB infection. Yet the new data show that worldwide, we know of only 103,000 people over age five who were exposed to TB in their homes and who received preventive therapy. Children are especially vulnerable to TB infection when an adult in their home has TB disease, yet we have no idea how many kids over age five are screened in those circumstances. Children under age five are highly vulnerable when they’re exposed to TB, yet only one in four of those children are receiving preventing therapy. This is a human rights issue. We need heads of state to take TB prevention seriously, and to ensure health systems are protecting children who are exposed.

Drug-resistant TB

“Drug resistance remains a crisis that heads of state must take urgent action to address. Only one in five people sick with a form of drug-resistant TB is treated, and nine countries with high burdens of TB drug resistance actually saw a decrease in the numbers of people treated over the previous year.


“The report shows once again that innovation is crucial to the whole future of the TB response. Support for research has never come close to what TB needs. Global research funding was stagnant over the last five years, at about one-third of what’s needed to deliver modern tools for preventing, diagnosing and treating TB. This is why innovative approaches to research such as the Life Prize are so critical. The report highlights that the new BRICS Tuberculosis Research Network could possibly generate new funding for research. That support would be welcome.

Child TB

“Children with TB are widely neglected. A million children under age 15 become sick with TB each year, and they make up a disproportionate number of the world’s deaths from TB. The report attributes this to the fact that children with TB have worse access to medical care than adults with TB. This silent epidemic of TB among children calls for a human rights-based approach to TB care, with the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the guidance framework.

TB Financing

“The costs of the global TB epidemic are outpacing the available financing. The world’s 119 low- and middle-income countries are contributing the majority of the world’s financing for TB care, and contributions from wealthier countries are on the decline. Financing for TB care from wealthier countries amounts to less than US$1 billion annually, which is half of what they contribute to malaria and only an eighth of what they contribute to HIV/AIDS care. Global financing for TB care needs to double to US$13 billion annually by 2022 in order to put the TB response back on track,” concluded Jensen.

Read the WHO Global TB Report 2018.