At least 49,000 children in the country are carrying latent tuberculosis and need preventive therapy, according to the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease
A new report on latent tuberculosis (TB) in children has placed Bangladesh in the fifth position in the world, with 49,000 children eligible for TB preventive therapy.
India has topped the list with 360,000 children in need of the preventive therapy, followed by the Dominican Republic of Congo with 75,000, Indonesia with 65,000, and the Philippines with 55,000 children.
The report, titled “Silent Epidemic: A Call to Action Against Child Tuberculosis,” was launched on Wednesday by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) at the Geneva Press Club.
The Union published the latest data on childhood TB in 2016 on the occasion of the 71st World Health Assembly, which is in progress in Geneva, with an urgent call for action to protect children from TB.
According to the report, at least 49,000 children in Bangladesh have latent TB, which means they have the bacteria inside and are in need of preventable therapy.
However, only 8,537 children have received the therapy, according to the report.
The report further said at least 19,000 cases of children aged between 0-14 years becoming sick with TB was reported in Bangladesh in 2016.
In India, the number was 122,000, China had 53,000, the Philippines 37,000, South Africa 31,000, Nigeria 30,000, and Pakistan had 27,000 such reports.
According to the report, although the mortality rate of children under five years of age has fallen in many countries over the past 20 years, the continued neglect of childhood TB has resulted in TB now being one of the major infectious diseases causing death in children globally, despite it being treatable and preventable.
This is the first time that TB is on the World Health Assembly agenda.
Addressing the event, The Union Director Paula Fujiwara said children under five are susceptible to TB in brain, their immunity is low and they are more prone to infections.
“We have more than 10 million children around the world with TB. Among those who have latent TB, 5-10% will break down to the disease, especially young children and migrants,” said Kitty Van Weezenbeek, executive director of KNCV Tuberculosis Organization in the Netherlands.
Dr Vidya Ganesh, deputy director (program division) at Unicef, addressed the gaps in prevention, research, diagnosis and treatment of TB, and said administering preventive therapy among children is the new way of tackling paediatric TB.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 9.7 million children who have been orphaned by TB.
“We need leadership in the TB community who can take the responsibility of concrete targets, which is a challenge,” said Tereza Kasaeva, WHO global head of TB Program.
This correspondent was invited to cover the 71st World Health Assembly as a fellow of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ)