Tag Archives: WHO

Breaking news – new data shows that TB is now the world’s leading infectious killer

The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Tuberculosis (TB) Programme today (Wednesday 28 October) released its annual Global TB Report detailing the extent of the global TB epidemic.

HIV TB Graphic - Final

The figures revealed that TB has surpassed HIV and is now the leading infectious disease killer claiming more lives than any other infectious disease. The numbers revealed that in 2014, 1.5 million people died from tuberculosis while 1.2 million people lost their lives to HIV.

Not only did the report highlight the gravity of TB infections globally, it also revealed deadly gaps in the care, diagnosis and treatment of people with TB. Two out of every five people with TB are still not receiving the care they need with 3.6 million cases of TB were not reported in 2014. TB is the world’s deadliest drug-resistant infection, with someone with drug-resistant TB having less than a 1 in four chance of being successfully diagnosed and reported, in which the quality of care is simply unknown.

Ambitious investment and high level political commitment is needed to drive the end of TB. HIV infections fell by about 40% from 2000 – 2013. Compare this to slower progress on TB: From 2000-2014, the number of new TB cases fell at an average rate of 1.5% per year. At this rate, it will take us 200 years to eliminate TB. The progress towards the target to end TB by 2030 in the recently agreed Global Goals could be jeopardised.

In total, donor countries commit only $800 million a year to tackling TB, compared to an estimated $2.2 billion for malaria and $8.7 billion for HIV/AIDS.

Co-chairman of the APPG TB, Nick Herbert MP, said  “We urgently need to match the ambition with a properly resourced global programme that prioritises new medicines and a vaccine to accelerate action against TB and reduce the risk of drug resistance.”

New, ambitious plans to achieve the end of TB in our lifetime are ready.  Linked to Global Goals targets, the WHO has laid out an ambitious End TB Strategy aiming to eliminate TB as a global epidemic within 20 years. In the middle of November, the Stop TB Partnership will launch a Global Plan to End TB, providing a costed blueprint for ensuring global TB efforts become significantly more ambitious and effective over the first five years of the End TB Strategy.

Aaron Oxley, Executive Director of RESULTS UK, said: “The WHO declared TB a global health emergency 22 years ago and since then nearly 45 million people have died.  The world is sleep-walking through a crisis and the sheer scale of human misery that these numbers represent should be a wake-up call for us all.”

We are at a tipping point that could see the end TB within our lifetime. The global TB response urgently needs increased political will and investment. We don’t have time to delay.

World B(r)E(a)ST-feeding Week 2015


Every year 1st-7th August is observed as the World Breastfeeding Week, to celebrate, protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. This year we observe 25 years since the Innocenti declaration (1990), which recognised that breastfeeding provides ideal nutrition for infants and contributes to their healthy growth and development.

Now, why do we need to dedicate one whole week to something as natural as breastfeeding? Continue reading

In the Fight Against the World’s Deadliest Diseases, It’s Time to Take the Next Step

This blog post from Taryn Russell, Campaigns Officer – Child Health and Vaccines at RESULTS Canada, is the fourth in our World Immunisation Week series on “Closing the Gap on Immunisations”. Stay tuned for more posts from our ACTION partners around the world!

For 3,000 years smallpox was one of the world’s most feared diseases.  The virus caused fevers, sore throats, and vomiting in its victims, followed by a rash on the face and body. The rash preceded disfiguring and painful sores and, for 30% of those infected, death.  In the 20thcentury alone, it’s estimated that more than 300 million people worldwide died from smallpox but today, the only place you will find a smallpox victim is in the history books.  The last known case of wild smallpox occurred in Somalia in 1976.


Why is this case? Because vaccines work. In 1798 Edward Jenner made an observation that would save millions of lives and revolutionise medicine. He noticed that milkmaids previously infected with cowpox were not susceptible to smallpox. His experiments with inoculation were refined throughout the next 200 years and resulted in a successful global effort to eradicate smallpox  spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the 1960s and 1970s.

Vaccines are one of the most successful public health interventions ever. The WHO estimates that vaccines prevent between 2 and 3 million deaths annually, not only saving lives, but also allowing people to thrive by protecting them  from both disability and illness, and producing major economic benefits.  Healthy children stay in school longer, bringing greater long-term benefits to themselves and their families.  Vaccines also take the strain of treating preventable diseases off often already overburdened health systems.

Progress due to vaccinations over the last century has been nothing if not astounding but there is still much more work to be done. In 2015 it is estimated that 1 in 5 children will miss out of life saving immunizations. This gap means that millions of the world’s most vulnerable children are susceptible to illnesses such as child pneumonia and diarrhoea, both leading causes of child mortality and both vaccine preventable. How do we close the immunization gap? The WHO has identified three key steps which will require a concerted global undertaking to address.

First, we must integrate immunization with other health services. By combining the delivery of vaccinations with other health interventions on issues that affect infants and children such as malnutrition and vitamin deficiency we can reduce inefficiencies in delivery and ensure children are getting all the health services they require.

Secondly, we must strengthen health systems so that they can continue vaccination through crises. The importance of this cannot be overstated as we saw the decimation of health systems during the recent Ebola outbreaks in West Africa.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, we need to ensure that vaccines are accessible and affordable to all. This is a real issue as a recent report by Medicins Sans Frontieres found that the cost to fully immunize a child has increased a whopping 68 fold from 2001-2014. The high price of vaccines means that not only are the poorest countries having difficulties procuring and vaccinating their populations but that middle income countries are also being priced out of vaccines and large swatches of the population are going unprotected.

Donors have attempted to address these steps by pledging $7. 5 billion over 2015-2018 to Gavi the Vaccines Alliance, the public-private partnership launched in 2000 to provide vaccines to the world’s poorest. Gavi also does work on strengthening health systems and shaping the vaccines market to try to ensure that vaccines are accessible for all. This is a good first step but it will be imperative that countries are held accountable for following through on these pledges. Closing the immunization gap will also require political will along with money as governments need to prioritize immunization within their health budget. Governments as well as civil society also need to emphasize the importance and benefits of vaccines to their populations as everyone needs to fully buy in to power of vaccines if we are to close the immunization gap once and for all.

Let’s not make the eradication of smallpox a once in a lifetime anomaly.  Let’s repeat this grand success and continue to eliminate vaccine preventable diseases as well as protect against those that are here to stay. It will be important for all governments to support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as they lead the global effort to permanently rid the world of one of its most debilitating diseases.  Polio – you’re up next!”  Polio – you’re up next!

RESULTS remembers and honours the life and work of Glenn Thomas

RESULTS UK offers its deepest sympathy to the friends and families of all those whose lives were lost in the MH17 crash. Our director, Aaron Oxley, remembers and honours the life and work of Glenn Thomas, a longstanding friend of RESULTS.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a week since the shooting down of flight MH17 above Ukraine. There are almost no words to fully express the senseless loss of those 298 people. Among those on the airplane was Glenn Thomas , who worked for the WHO Communications Department, and who has been an ally of RESULTS UK for many years.

Our history with Glenn goes back well over a decade. At my first ever RESULTS National Conference as a grassroots attendee back in 1998, Glenn was one of the keynote speakers. He spoke passionately about TB, then, as now, one of his communication priorities. This was back when RESULTS UK was just starting our journey of understanding TB and its impact in the world, and Glenn was full of important insights that meant we could speak with confidence about what can sometimes be a very complex disease.

Glenn Thomas

Part of that RESULTS conference was a gala fundraising auction, and Glenn had volunteered a lot: “A weekend break in my flat in Geneva”. I was the one who bid, and won.

For many reasons it took until 2013 – 15 years later – for me to claim that lot when I visited Geneva for the World Health Assembly. While I was there, Glenn and I went out to dinner. The conversation revolved around how to get the press to pay more attention to TB and other neglected global health issues: as usual, Glenn had ideas to test out and ideas to explore.

That it took 15 years for me to collect on my fundraising auction lot, and that Glenn still so enthusiastically honoured it, tells you everything you need to know about the kind of person he was and his lifelong commitment to leaving the world a better place than he found it.

Besides the conversation, what I remember most of that evening was Glenn’s huge smile, one that started in his eyes and overtook his whole face. It was impossible not to get caught up in that smile.

That bright smile brings to mind Glenn’s great help in putting on a special screening of the Jane Campion film “Bright Star”, about the life, and early death from TB of the Romantic poet John Keats. Besides making sure that many high-level media representatives attended, Glenn was photographed with many others holding a sign that read “No More Bright Stars Lost to TB.” 

Glenn was needlessly taken from us far too soon, along with far too many others aboard MH17, and countless more by the diseases he fought so hard to end.

He will be missed.

So you think TB doesn’t affect people in Europe?

Jessica Kuehne, Health Advocacy Officer at RESULTS, presents some key facts about the scale of the TB epidemic in Europe and what RESULTS and partners are doing to help get rates down.

We talk a lot about how many people think TB is a disease of the past when in fact it still kills 1.3 million people every year. Yes, more than 90 percent of all the people who get sick with TB live in developing countries. But – Europe is not immune from the one disease that has killed more people than any other in history.

Here are a  facts about TB in Europe that might surprise you. They are:

  • TB is the top infectious disease killer in Europe. Of all deaths caused by communicable diseases (diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, parasites etc.), more than 40 percent are still due to TB.
  • Europe is a hot bed for drug-resistant TB. Although the European region only accounts for 13 percent of the world’s population, it makes up nearly a quarter of all drug-resistant TB cases.
  • The European Union has some of the worst treatment outcomes for drug-resistant TB. Of all people who are diagnosed with multidrug-resistant TB worldwide, only about half are able to successfully complete their treatment. In the EU this number is even lower – only one third of patients with multidrug-resistant TB successfully complete their treatment.

So the answer is yes, TB does still matter. And with drug resistance on the rise, TB in Europe REALLY matters.

Treatment for drug-resistant TB is tough – patients have to have daily injections at the start of treatment followed by two years of swallowing fists full of pills. On top of this come the side effects – vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, depression, suicidal thoughts and even deafness.

Credit: Tom Maguire/RESULTS UK

Credit: Tom Maguire/RESULTS UK

Want to know what it’s like to have to go through that treatment? Read Marina’s account of going through TB diagnosis and treatment in three different EU countries.

Marina said that during those two years, one of the things that kept her going was a quote by Martin Luther King who said:

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Marina said she tried to focus on whatever she could to take her forward.

TB is often forgotten in Europe. Even amongst the TB community, little attention is paid to a region where people think TB isn’t actually a problem or, when it comes to Eastern Europe and Central Asia, people don’t know very much about.

But it’s not all bleak news. Last week, the TB Europe Coalition brought together 24 TB advocates from 13 countries across Eastern Europe and Central Asia to build a network of individuals raising the issue of TB and to work out ways of getting Governments to allocate more funding for TB in the region. RESULTS is supporting the coalition to build stronger ties in the region and find ways advocates can support each other and work together to respond to TB in Europe.

It was also encouraging to see that Public Health England, when welcoming the World Health Organisation’s new report on antimicrobial resistance, specifically identified TB as an area of antibiotic resistance we need to be paying attention to.

TB still kills an estimated 40,000 people in the European region every year, and the rise in drug resistance is nothing to be scoffed at. This is a disease we should be responding to with a global approach. And when I say global, that includes Europe, too.

Photo story: Finding TB cases in Cambodia’s Slums

The World Health Organisation estimates that of the nearly nine million people who become ill with tuberculosis every year, nearly one third are ‘missed’ by national health systems. This means that roughly one out of every three individuals with TB is never officially diagnosed or treated and continues to spread, suffer, and die from the disease.

In Steung Meanchey, Cambodia, a new programme, supported by TB REACH, has been introduced to help find people in slums who have symptoms of TB, but have never received a formal diagnosis. TB REACH is a an initiative of the Stop TB Partnership that seeks to use innovative and forward thinking techniques for finding and diagnosing cases of TB in hard to reach populations.

Steung Meanchey is a poor community on the outskirts on Phnom Penh that sits directly above a sewage lake and has high rates of TB due to overcrowded living conditions and poor nutrition. Many families in the community do not have access to health services or are unaware that symptoms such as a cough or weight loss could actually be the early stages of TB.  To address this problem, the programme sends health workers to visit families to see if any individuals have symptoms of TB. If they have symptoms, health workers collect a sputum sample from the individual, place it in a cool box and then transport it back to the lab for testing. If the person turns out to have TB, they are provided treatment free of charge, in their home, until they recover.

While the approach of actively finding people in Cambodia who have TB may not sound ground-breaking, it is this sort of alternative approach that has helped the country make inroads against one of the world’s most deadly infectious diseases. Bringing health services to those who might otherwise have difficulty accessing them is helping to ensure people are diagnosed sooner and put on treatment faster, thus stopping the disease from being spread further in the community.

New UN mercury treaty protects access to life saving vaccine preservative

The United Nations Environment Programme has been drafting a global treaty to rid the world of the threats posed by mercury. As part of these discussions, proposals were made to restrict vaccines that contain the preservative thiomersal, a mercury-based preservative that has been used in some vaccine manufacturing since the 1930s to prevent contamination of multidose vials of vaccine. After a concerted effort by development partners, the final text, which will be ratified in October this year, now ensures that thiomersal can continue to be used in vaccines.

The World Health Organisation has said that “thiomersal-containing vaccines [are] safe, essential, and irreplaceable components of immunization programs, especially in developing countries, and…removal of these products would disproportionately jeopardize the health and lives of the most disadvantaged children worldwide.”

As Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, pointed out in the New York Times last week, “the decision should in theory be a no-brainer: The scientific and medical consensus is that thiomersal poses no human health risk, and that rather than saving lives, a ban would put millions of the world’s poorest children at risk of deadly diseases by disrupting vaccination programs.” The science surrounding this issue has become unnecessarily clouded in recent decades. This is in part due to the efforts of anti-vaccination groups, as is pointed out by Dr Berkley.

Using this preservative is especially important in developing countries. Single dose vaccine vials are more expensive, and are less practical when health workers want to immunise large numbers of children. They also take up more space in refrigerators, subsequently limiting ‘cold chain’ capacity further (to read more about this issue, read our blog from July).

In 2010 alone it is estimated that more than 1.4 million child deaths were prevented through the use of thiomersal-containing vaccines. Today vaccines are saving millions of lives every year, with coverage rising steadily over recent decades. This restriction would have jeopardized much of that progress. A job well done by those who saw off this threat.

‘The end of the global AIDS epidemic is within our reach’ – MPs debate HIV in developing countries

Just before the Christmas break, Pauline Latham MP (Mid Derbyshire, Conservative) secured a Westminster Hall Debate on HIV in developing countries. During a busy and well-attended debate, Ms Latham pointed out that ‘the end of the global AIDS epidemic is within our reach’ and echoed the slogan used by the Stop AIDS Campaign for World AIDS Day: ‘why stop now?’

Why stop now indeed, especially when we have the tools, the science and the knowledge to turn the tide on this epidemic. Pamela Nash MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on HIV/AIDS, reiterated this point and stated “We just need to sustain the political will”.

Undoubtedly political will is vital, but there is another important element to sustain, and dare we say scale up, in response to HIV/AIDS – Tuberculosis (TB) co-infection.

TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries, accounting for one in four deaths, with 1.1 million people acquiring TB in 2011. 79% of patients live in sub-Saharan Africa, yet TB does not get the attention or focus warranted by the suffering and death it causes. Why is this the case?

As Nick Herbert MP, the Conservative member for Arundel and the South Downs and a founding member of the APPG on Global Tuberculosis explained whilst speaking in the debate:

“It is striking that the diagnostic ability and treatment for HIV are much further ahead than they are for TB, yet TB is a more easily and cheaply treatable disease. Why is that? It is straightforwardly because HIV is a disease that affected the west, and TB was a disease that the west believed had gone. Its attention was therefore not on it. The resources and money that were invested in necessarily trying to deal with the terrible and growing problem of HIV were not directed in the same way at TB. Therefore, the diagnosis of TB is not as quick as it should be, and the treatments go on for an extended period, with old-fashioned drugs that must be taken on a continuous basis; if they are not taken in that way, the problem of drug-resistant TB arises—and that is a killer and particularly difficult to deal with.”

Mr Herbert also highlighted that of the estimated 9 million people who get ill with TB every year, 3 million go without proper diagnosis or treatment. Put simply, we fail to reach far too many people—often in the poorest, most vulnerable communities—with quality TB care.

We need to accelerate our efforts to tackle TB, and it is clear that we need to think outside the box.  One way of doing this is through TB REACH, a WHO initiative that gives small grants of up to 1 million dollars to find and treat those who don’t have any access to TB diagnosis or treatment, Mr Herbert added.

He also stated that a longer term solution to tackling TB would be the creation of a new vaccine that could tackle both normal and drug-resistant strains of the disease. This would have implications not only for developing countries, but also for us here in the UK, where rates of TB infection continue to rise.

The importance and contribution of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to tackling both HIV and TB was widely recognised by members, as were the wider developmental benefits accrued from continued investment in fighting the three diseases.

Responding to the points raised, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development Lynne Featherstone MP acknowledged the two points raised by Mr Herbert in relation to the TB REACH programme and on vaccination, both of which she said she would consider further. The Minister also highlighted that DFID’s support for TB research includes £205 million to the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, and £14 million to the Tropical Disease Research Programme.

Ms Featherstone concluded the session by stating: “It is heartening to see so many Members who genuinely hold HIV as a priority and will pursue the wonderful goal of zero infections”.

Children and Tuberculosis: From Neglect to Action

Doctor assessing young child for TB

Credit: Gary Hampton

This week at the 43rd Union World Conference on Lung Health,  the ACTION Global Health Advocacy Partnership launched the report, ‘Children and Tuberculosis: From Neglect to Action’, outlining the urgent need for international action and cooperation on childhood TB.

Today the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 840,000 children get sick with TB each year, and up to  64,000 die as a result – with many experts agreeing that these figures are much higher. These figures are all the more striking when considering that TB is both preventable and treatable. As Kolleen Bouchane, the ACTION Director, says:

The global TB epidemic is a disgrace. We must transform increased attention to this deadly disease into action and ensure no one, especially the most vulnerable, is left behind in the fight against tuberculosis

The report, following another by the ACTION partnership on childhood TB a year ago, highlights the issues facing children in the fight against TB. Not only do children have weaker immune systems making them prime targets, but there is also a lack of awareness in many National TB Programmes that results in problems of diagnosis or of childhood TB simply being overlooked as an issue. Continue reading

Wall Street Journal article highlights woman’s struggle to survive drug-resistant TB

Image courtesy of World Lung Foundation

A compelling article published in the Wall Street Journal last weekend tells the story of TB patient Rahima Sheikh, detailing a six-year journey that has resulted in Sheikh having one of India’s first documented cases of TB that is resistant to virtually all medicines available.

Sheikh, who was diagnosed with TB in 2006, spent the past six-years journeying throughout India in search of a cure for her illness. It has been a journey that has forced her to mortgage her family’s rice fields, spend her father and brother’s life savings, as well as causing her considerable physical and mental anguish. Despite these sacrifices, Sheikh still has no guarantee that she will survive her illness.

Treating TB ordinarily requires a six to nine month course of treatment, and, therefore, it may seem strange that Sheikh has been on this six-year journey. However, if TB cases are mismanaged, if doses aren’t correctly prescribed or  if treatment is taken incorrectly or inconsistently, the TB bacteria can re-emerge and become resistant to medication.

In the case of Sheikh, it is suggested drug-resistant strains of TB were able to emerge because she was prescribed the wrong treatment on the basis of a misdiagnosis when she first sought treatment. Continue reading