Nov '09

Fighting TB through environmental action

Fighting TB through environmental action

The key role played by environmental factors in Africa’s high rates of tuberculosis (TB) will be the focus of a side event taking place during the Third Interministerial Conference on Health and the Environment in Africa in Libreville, Gabon today

TB is the world’s leading cause of death from a single infectious agent after HIV/AIDS. Because the heaviest burden falls on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, the disease aggravates existing inequalities. A quarter of all cases occur in Africa, although the continent contains just 15% of the global population, while 42% of the estimated TB deaths globally are registered in the region.

“TB spreads easily in crowded and poorly ventilated households, as is often the case in rapidly growing cities in Africa where slums are commonplace,” said Andre Ndongosieme, Medical Officer, WHO Africa or Farai Mavhunga, Medical Officer, WHO Africa “Without adequate measures to prevent the spread of infection, health care facilities, workplaces, public transport and prisons can also facilitate the transmission of TB.”

During the WHO-hosted side event delegates – including government officials, environment and health experts – will examine a range of environmental factors and the role of mining in the continent’s TB epidemic. Many tens of thousands of miners have developed silicosis, a fatal disease associated with TB, by inhaling silica dust given off during drilling.

The WHO End TB Strategy, agreed by governments in 2014, has set ambitious targets to end the global TB epidemic, aiming to reduce TB deaths by 95% and to cut new cases by 90% between 2015 and 2035.

The 2008 Libreville Declaration on Health and Environment in Africa recognized the risks to health emanating from environmental degradation often sparked by a rush for economic progress. During the Interministerial conference in Libreville delegates are hammering together a strategic action plan for joint health and environment initiatives.