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IRC Says 10 Million Might Die of Tuberculosis by 2015


The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warned Thursday that as many as 10 million people will die of Tuberculosis by 2015, unless the international community intervenes. The world's largest humanitarian and development network presented its report to mark World Tuberculosis Day.

Tuberculosis - preventable and curable

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says worldwide access to affordable, effective treatment and care is crucial to halt a global and often deadly Tuberculosis pandemic.

In its latest report, "Towards a Tuberculosis-Free World," the IFRC warns that by 2015 more than 10 million people could die from an illness that experts say is preventable and curable.

The report says that more than 80 percent of tuberculosis cases occur in Africa and Asia, with India and China alone accounting for a third of people suffering from the disease.

Challenges: multi-drug resistance, cost

Dr. Sonja Tanevska, Heath and Care Coordinator of the IFRC Europe Zone, says there is also concern about Eastern Europe and the Central Asian nations of the former Soviet Union.

"Eastern Europe is unfortunately affected by the form of tuberculosis that is very difficult to treat. It is multi-drug resistant tuberculosis,” Dr. Tanevska said. “This is why Eastern Europe is very specific and it is very important for [the] fight [against] Tuberculosis."

Dr. Tanevska says part of the problem is that many people diagnosed with tuberculosis in these former Communist nations do not complete their treatment because of the cost, which can range from $100 to $7,500.

Dr. Tanevska says that each year, hundreds of thousands of people in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are infected with tuberculosis and that seven people in the region die of the illness every hour.

Yet, she explains, IFRC volunteers have been able to save the lives of thousands.

"Our report has a story from Turkmenistan. One of our volunteers in our program, she had tuberculosis twice in her life -- once when she was a child and she was cured and a second time she got tuberculosis when she was 33 [years old]. She was devastated,” she explains. “And only Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers helped her to go through this difficult period. And they gave her psychological support and in many ways helped the family in general to go through this difficult period. And she is now one of the volunteers of Turkmenistan Red Crescent.”

Future needs

The IFRC wants to raise $250 million to extend treatment and support to as many as 1.7 million tuberculosis sufferers around the world by 2015

The IFRC's spokesperson in Budapest, Joe Lowry, says the organization wants to work closely with local communities to detect the disease early among the homeless and others needing assistance.

"There the nurse could hear a cough and say, 'You need to be tested.' It's a treatable disease, absolutely. It's not a death sentence. It's something that can be cured. It takes time. With the right medication, people can be back on their feet and back at work within months," Lowry states.

One in three people worldwide is thought to be infected with tuberculosis, although most will never become ill with the disease.

But with urban centers expected to swell to almost five billion people within the next two decades, the IFRC says governments will need to do more to help prevent cities from becoming a hotbed for tuberculosis transmission.

The IFRC estimates that some $21 billion is needed from donor countries to tackle the pandemic during the next four years.

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