In an editorial published by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, experts based at Bangladesh’s Dhaka Community Hospital accuse the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) of ‘covering up’ the G8 countries’ failure to cut TB deaths, in particular in South Asia. The article faults DFID for focusing on preventing the spread of TB to the West instead of addressing the underlying causes of TB, including poor living conditions, sanitation and nutrition.
Furthermore, the authors accuse DFID of masking the nearly half a million people who die from TB in south Asia by classifying the area’s TB mortality rate as ‘moderate’. The authors praised the UK for having taken a leadership role during the 2000 G8 meeting in Okinawa, which pledged to ‘Reduce TB deaths and prevalence of the disease by 50 per cent by 2010’, but they point out that the pledge was weakened during the Millennium Summit in the same year when world leaders adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). United Nations member states grouped TB with other infectious diseases and delayed the target to ‘have halted and begun to reverse the spread of’ the diseases until 2015.
Although a 2008 DFID factsheet on progress towards to the MDGs claims that progress on fighting TB is ‘almost met or on target’, the authors of yesterday’s editorial point out that by 2010, the G8’s target of reducing TB by 50 per cent is neither ‘almost met’ or ‘on target’ as a 2009 WHO report depicts only an 11 per cent reduction in TB.
DFID has responded to the editorial by saying,
‘The data in this article refers to a factsheet published in 2008. The British government is totally committed to treating and preventing this deadly disease from spreading. That is why only last month the Secretary of State announced treatment for an additional 56,000 people through the Global Fund.’
This story was first reported by the Guardian. While we at RESULTS welcome DFID’s early release of funds to the Global Fund for the treatment of TB, we urge them to take further steps to prioritise the prevention and reduction of TB. The need for an increased focus on TB from DFID is especially important as DFID has released business plans for malaria and maternal health, but these do not properly address TB. DFID has not set out other detailed plans for TB and how it intends to support efforts to control its spread, so a stronger response is warranted.