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Envoy Urges Global Efforts to Fight Tuberculoses

UN Special Envoy Urges Intensified Global Efforts to Fight Tuberculoses

New York, May 31 2006 4:00PM

A United Nations special envoy today urged international donors and civil society to mobilize resources to stop tuberculosis (TB), a disease that, while curable, continues to kill at least 5,000 people every day.

“Civilization cannot afford to see this happening,” Jorge Sampaio, former Portuguese President and Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative to Stop Tuberculoses, told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York.

Mr. Sampaio, who was appointed by the UN chief as his special envoy some three weeks ago, said over the years despite continued global efforts to reduce the number of patients, tuberculoses remains a “major, leading killer” of those infected with HIV/AIDS.”

“Many people with HIV/AIDS are dying of tuberculoses. This is the connection which is becoming more and more clear,” he said, adding that in many developing countries, tuberculoses-related deaths occur because public health authorities pay less attention to the need for diagnosis.

Cases are on the rise in not only sub-Saharan Africa and Asia but also countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, where, according to Mr. Sampaio, public health authorities have more or less forgotten about the diseases because of its decline in the 1970s and 1980s.

“It happens to people who suffer from severe economic conditions,” he said, adding “but it’s something we can really stop. A major treatment can cure people.”

Responding to a question, the Special Envoy said global funding to fight tuberculoses does exist, but stressed the need for additional financial assistance from donors. “There is a big funding problem,” he said. “The gap in funding is huge.”

At a summit held in New York in the year 2000, world leaders had agreed to reverse the incidence of tuberculoses by the year 2015 as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

UN officials estimate that funding to successfully implement the Global Plan to Stop Tuberculoses will cost at least $56 billion, but so far the aid available for this drive is worth $31 billion.

“We have to mobilize the donor community and civil society,” said Mr. Sampaio, cautioning against a lax attitude. “We should avoid this complacency.”


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