WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An organization fighting tuberculosis worldwide said on Tuesday it has a 60 percent funding shortfall for this year and appealed to the United States and other countries to help.
The Geneva-based Stop TB Partnership said that since 2001 it has provided TB drugs to treat 10 million people in 78 countries, mostly in Southeast Asia and Africa.
The partnership, operating with the help of the World Health Organization, said it needs about $35 million this year, but so far has received about $14 million in contributions, leaving a funding gap of about $21 million.
The partnership said it has received $128 million in contributions in the past six years. Canada has been the top donor with $77 million, followed by the United States with $19 million.
“We’re not asking the U.S. to fill the entire gap. We think the U.S. could do more, and would be grateful if the U.S. would consider an increase,” said Dr. Marcos Espinal, the partnership’s executive secretary, in a telephone interview.
Espinal, in Washington to appeal to U.S. officials, said treating 10 million people was an important achievement.
Tuberculosis, a bacterial infection that usually attacks the lungs, kills about 1.6 million people annually. The highest number of deaths and the highest mortality rate are in Africa.
The disease is often diagnosed late and treated either improperly or not at all.
The Stop TB Partnership, formed in 2000, has set the goal of eliminating TB as a global public health problem by 2050.
“We have a long way to go,” Espinal said.
Like the common cold, the disease is spread through the air when infectious people cough, sneeze, talk or spit. About 9 million people get TB a year.
Most people with TB can be cured with four standard drugs. But TB can become resistant to them if patients do not take their drugs for as long as intended, if they get the wrong drugs or if the drug supply is unreliable.
Drug-resistant TB takes longer to treat and can be cured only with more expensive and more harsh second-line drugs.