Tuberculosis, a serious disease that often attacks the lungs, can be prevented but is often left unchecked in developing nations. Although certain strains of the virus can be effectively treated with medication, others are highly resistant to common forms of treatment. Children and adults in developing nations are at increased risk of contracting drug-resistant strains of TB, a disease that most developed nations have had little exposure to in many years.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 630,000 cases of drug-resistant TB occurred worldwide in 2011. To raise awareness of how aid organizations and governments are tackling this urgent problem, the WHO has declared March 24 World TB Day.
Malnutrition, scarcity of food, overcrowding and other serious illnesses such as HIV and AIDS are all contributing factors to the spread of TB in poorer countries. According to researchers at the Global Health Council, children represent around 25 percent of TB cases in some developing countries, causing more than 40,000 deaths of children under the age of 5 every year.
Aside from the serious physical dangers that TB poses to children, the disease can also have a devastating impact on family life. For example, in India alone, more than 300,000 children are orphaned every year by TB-related deaths, and in cases where family members are infected, children are often forced to work to help provide for the family. Often these children will miss out on school, which likely will prevent them from emerging from poverty as adults.
As serious as the health threats of TB are, much progress has been made in the fight against the disease. According to the WHO, more than 20 million lives were saved during the Stop TB Strategy between 1995 and 2011. In addition, overall rates of infection have declined 40 percent since 1990, and incidences of new cases have also fallen. And yet, there's still more work to do.
ChildFund is committed to working with governments, other aid organizations and health care advocacy groups to fight child poverty and reduce rates of TB infection in children and their families. To help us continue this important work, please consider making a donation to our Children's Greatest Needs program so we can bring hope to communities at risk of TB and save the lives of vulnerable children.