P2.5-B USAID grant to help DOH, LGUs fight TB
The Philippines is among the five countries hardest-hit by the tuberculosis (TB) pandemic, along with Indonesia, China, Pakistan and India, which accounts for a quarter of cases, a World Health Organization (WHO) report on TB said.
There are some 1 million TB cases in the Philippines, with around 60 Filipinos dying of the illness daily, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Friday, during the launch of two pioneering health projects by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The USAID gave a a P2.5-billion grant for the TB Innovations and TB Platforms projects that will run from 2018 until 2023, and will “actively” find TB patients, improve the management of a TB database, cure TB cases in the country, and support the local governments’ and the health department’s National TB Control Program.
Reduce TB mortality
The US government has given a total of P6.5 billion in assistance to the DOH’s National Tuberculosis Program since 2006.
The goal is to reduce TB mortality by 50 percent in 2022, Duque said, adding that the programs will address the contagious disease even in prison cells where 2 to 4 percent of inmates are said to have TB.
The health official said the highest number of TB cases were recorded in Metro Manila, Region III and IV-A, which are all characterized by high population density and congestion.
During the launch, US Charge d’ Affaires Michael Klecheski admitted to having TB more than a decade ago and stressed the importance of education to combat the disease and erase its stigma.
“There is nothing to be ashamed of in having TB. There is a cure,” Duque said, adding that stigma has discouraged TB patients from coming out and reporting their illness.
Failure to follow up also worsens TB cases, Duque said. “It’s very important that patients finish the treatment,” he said, adding that the TB bacteria can become drug resistant under improper treatment.
The launch was attended by some 500 residents of Barangay Holy Spirit in Quezon City, who were given free TB screenings and who took part in games and other health-oriented activities as part of the celebration of National Lung Month.
Also launched on Friday was the Family Development Sessions of the DOH and the Department of Social Welfare and Development that will benefit the 4,000 members of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program through informative sessions on TB prevention, control, care and treatment.
The programs will also benefit the TB patients in Marawi City who were displaced by the conflict last year, said Nilo Yacat of the University Research Corp., USAID’s implementing partner for the TB Platforms project.
Dr. Rose Sales, the chief of party of the TB Platforms program, said the project will expand the use of technology in detecting cases and improving data management to ensure that they are accurate.
In the United States, the United Nations is training the spotlight on TB, which has become the world’s No. 1 killer among infectious diseases, but which has been eclipsed by HIV/AIDS as a focus of global attention and donor funding.
Citing the WHO report on countries most affected by TB, the UN will host on Sept. 27 a high-level meeting on noncommunicable diseases, where world leaders will be asked to commit to end the TB pandemic by 2030 and to raise $13 billion annually to achieve this goal.
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates whose global fund has done game-changing work to boost public health in poor countries will be among the headliners of the TB summit on Sept. 26.
Last year, the WHO sounded the alarm when it said TB had surpassed HIV/AIDS as the world’s No. 1 infectious killer and was the ninth cause of death worldwide.
About 1.7 million people died from TB in 2016 out of 10.4 million worldwide who became ill from the severe lung infection, according to the WHO.
The rise in TB cases is partly fueled by growing worldwide rates of diabetes, which weaken the immune system and make people more susceptible to TB. —WITH A REPORT FROM AFP
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