islamabad - Above fifty thousand people die annually due to Tuberculoses (TB) in Pakistan, while around 1, 65000 patients suffering with the disease fail to get treatment every year, The Nation learned on Thursday.  Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) in the 61st quarterly Inter-Provincial meeting discussed the current situation of TB in the country. The meeting was also attended by the mission of World Health Organization (WHO) Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) representatives.

An official of the TB Control program informed The Nation that around 55000 people die annually because of TB in the country and the program is facing shortage of funds.  He said that the government is facing a gap of 350million dollars in aid to control and eliminate TB.   The official said that the country is receiving 144million dollars as donor funding to control the disease. In the breakup of 144million dollars, 65millions are spent on drugs, 18million on human resource, 08million on supply chain and 60million dollars are given to the private sector to run the program.

The official said that the government is spending 35million dollars in provinces while the total amount required is 520million dollars for the three years.  The official said that 165000 patients fail to get treatment for the disease.  The official also said that the TB program in the country also lacks ‘ownership’ after the 18th amendment which leads to missing cases.  “There is no ownership of TB program like polio elimination program,” he said. 

The official said that the 61st meeting is looking forward to increase its donor aid to cover the financial gap in funds to expand the TB control program efficiently in the country. Addressing the conference National Coordinator TB control program Brig. Dr Aamir Ikram said that in order to eliminate TB from the country, solid and comprehensive coordination among the related departments is more essential than an increase in funds.

He said that the United Nations (UN) has appreciated the efforts of Pakistan to eliminate the disease from the country and the foreign minister Shah Mehmmod Qureshi has vowed major reforms in the health sector in the recent session of the UN. Joint Secretary ministry of NHS Shahzad Nawaz Cheema said that the biggest stake holder of the TB control program in the country is the common man because he is on the risk of being affected with the disease.  He added that 40% of the population of the country is facing poverty and the better economic conditions of the people will bring improvement in the health of the people. “A large portion is living in slums where most TB patients are also found,” he said.  He said the country is struggling to contain TB for the last two decades and is collecting the data of the patients. He said the government is also heading towards digitalizing the whole health system.

“We are lacking in innovation and technology but trying to change the whole health paradigm to reach the people,” he said.  WHO representative for Pakistan Dr Nima Abid Saeed said that Pakistan in UN has made a commitment for more allocation of funds for the health sector and it needs to focus more on huge gaps in this sector in providing health care to citizens. Director Communicable Diseases EMRO Dr Rana Hajjeh said that 70 percent patients of the TB in EMRO region are in Pakistan and it is fighting with the disease for the last 15 years. “Resources are limited and we have to tackle the issue,” she said.

She also said that this year 35million children in Pakistan were vaccinated for the prevention from TB. “TB is the disease of poverty and affecting people at all level” she said.  She said that Pakistan in UN has signed the declaration of ending TB and it has to take measures to end the disease till 2030.  Director Global TB Program (GTP) Dr Tareza Kasaeva said that around 1.6million people every year die because of TB in the world. And one out of four suffering with the disease does not have health facilities to fight the disease.

Dr Tareza said that UN has taken serious steps and gained success in controlling the disease in last two decades. “54million people have been saved from TB in last 17 years by the efforts,” said director GBT.