The Union published a new report, ‘Silent Epidemic: A Call to Action Against Child TB’, highlighting the urgent action needed to protect children from TB.
Worldwide, a million children under the age of 15 years develop TB and 239,000—nearly one in four—die annually. Yet most of these deaths are treatable and preventable with simple, cost-effective public health measures.
The continuing medical neglect of child TB, resulting in millions of avoidable deaths, constitutes a human rights violation by any reasonable measure.
The report, launched at a side event of the 71st World Health Assembly, explains that the death toll in children results from systematic disregard for children’s rights to health. Within global public health, it is an open secret that health systems neglect children with TB because children are less contagious than adults and because the standard tools used to diagnose TB are less effective in children.
The Union calls for ending the neglect of children through more integrated, family-centred approaches to TB care and prevention, as well as engagement with the wider health sector, including the maternal and child health sectors. There is major potential to make much more progress with the low-cost tools that are available – including child contact screening and management – which are the standard of care in high-income, low TB burden countries but which are rare in TB endemic countries.
Through preventive models with a history of success, the report provides some suggestions for ending child TB, while at the same time raising awareness of the issue and advocating for high-level involvement, as essential to ending the emergency.