LONDON, Sept 18 (Reuters) – Climate change and conflict are harming efforts to tackle three of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, the head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has warned.
International disease control initiatives have largely recovered after being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Fund’s 2023 results report released Monday.
But the growing challenges of climate change and conflict mean the world risks failing to meet the goal of ending AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria by 2030 without “extraordinary measures”, Peter Sands said. executive director of the Global Fund.
For example, malaria is spreading in mountainous regions of Africa that were previously too cold for mosquitoes carrying the disease-causing parasite.
Extreme weather events like flooding overwhelm health services, displace communities, cause a surge in infections and interrupt treatments in many different places, the report says. In countries like Sudan, Ukraine, Afghanistan and Myanmar, simply reaching vulnerable communities is also proving extremely difficult due to insecurity, the statement added.
There are some positives, Sands said. For example, in 2022, 6.7 million people were treated for tuberculosis in countries where the Global Fund invests, 1.4 million more people than the previous year. The Fund also helped provide 24.5 million people with antiretroviral treatment for HIV and distributed 220 million mosquito nets.
Sands added that innovative prevention and diagnostic tools have also given hope.
This week, there is a high-level meeting on tuberculosis at the United Nations General Assembly, and advocates hope there will be more focus on the disease.
The Global Fund has been criticized by some TB experts for not allocating more of its budget to the disease because it is the deadliest of the three diseases the fund focuses on.
“There is no doubt that the world needs to devote more resources to fighting TB… but it is not as simple as comparing annual deaths from each disease,” Sands said. For example, he said, many countries with the highest TB burden are middle-income countries that have greater capacity to finance health services domestically.
Reporting by Jennifer Rigby; Editing by Jane Merriman and Edwina Gibbs
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