- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2001

The World Bank says it is halfway to raising more than $9 billion for a global campaign against tuberculosis and warns that ignoring the disease in the developing world now would only haunt more-developed countries later.
The World Health Organization, the World Bank and representatives from 22 nations with high TB incidence met in Washington this week and adopted a $9.3 billion measure, called the Global Plan to Stop TB, which would allow for greater detection and treatment of tuberculosis over the next five years.
"The global burden of TB is immense," said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, director-general of the World Health Organization. "The overriding principle of the plan is to communicate this one simple message: We can control TB. It will grant hundreds of thousands of people with TB the measures needed to fight this curable illness."
More than 350,000 cases of tuberculosis are reported in Pakistan and Afghanistan alone, and 8 million people get the disease every year. Twenty-two nations, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and India, are responsible for 80 percent of tuberculosis cases.
Although treatment can cost as little as $10 a person and has been available for half a century, 2 million lives are lost to the disease each year. So far, more than 120 public and private groups raised $4.8 billion in the latest campaign. That leaves organizers $4.5 billion short of the goal, which equals $900 million a year over the course of the proposed program. According to the survey of the World Bank, donor nations contributed about $200 million in foreign aid for tuberculosis in 2000.
"We expect this to increase for the coming year," said Diana Weil, World Bank senior public health specialist.
Dr. Brundtland said that United Nations' new Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria would be a major contributor. Major efforts for the program came from the World Bank, Partners in Health and the Open Society Institute, run by financier George Soros.
Tuberculosis is responsible for $12 billion in lost income worldwide, said Joseph Ritzen, the World Bank's expert on human development, education and social protection.
Health officials say tuberculosis knows no borders, and it poses a growing threat around the globe. The United States reported an all-time low of 16,377 tuberculosis cases in 2000, or about 5.8 cases detected in 100,000 people.
Health experts agree that $900 million needed each year from donor countries is not beyond reach.
The program calls for expanding its Directly Observed Treatment Short Course, or DOTS program, that allows for observation of TB patients in the first two months of infection and provides medication and treatment for a further four to six months.
The program hopes to detect 70 percent of people with infectious tuberculosis and treat 85 percent of people with the deadly disease. It also would cure 22 million people with TB by 2005.
Mr. Soros, a participant at the conference, said the price of not helping the tuberculosis effort is immense and pointed out that $1 billion was used to eradicate a multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in New York state several years ago.
"Put that into the perspective of the potential cost," Mr. Soros said. "If you don't treat , it's extremely expensive."

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