NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while inaugurating the first “End Tuberculosis Summit” on Tuesday, said that the country would have taken another 40 years to eradicate the disease if it continued at its earlier pace.
In the last three years, the rate of immunisation against the disease has grown 6 per cent annually and is over 60 per cent now, said the PM, adding that the government targets 90 per cent immunisation levels (TB vaccine—known as BCG—is given to newborns within a week of birth) in India within a year.
Modi, also reiterated his government’s plan to eradicate TB by 2025, five years before what the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals aim at. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had set the goal in its National Strategic Plan for 2017-2025.
The ministry is co-hosting the summit with the World Health Organization and Stop TB Partnership.
“Every step to eradicate tuberculosis concerns the lives of the poor, as the disease hurts them the most,” Modi said at the summit. He said the government was doing “massive work” to ensure that active TB cases are identified at the right time and the right medicines are given.
He also invoked cooperative federalism as a way to counter the disease. In December 2017, he had written to chief ministers of states, asking them to hold quarterly reviews of the TBV control programme.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO said that this is the right place to have this event and India’s plans to achieve the targets 5 years before the global target is bold, courageous and ambitious.
“The role of newly announced health and wellness centres in controlling TB will be crucial for India,” he said on the sideline of the summit.
According to government’s own estimates, each year India reports 2.2 million new cases of TB—the highest in the world, 3, 00,000 deaths and economic losses of Rs $ 23 billion, making it country’s biggest health crisis.
The disease has presented fresh challenge to India’s public health policy because of totally drug resistant TB that was first reported in 2011.