Bangladesh has come out as a role model for containing deadly Tuberculosis (TB), despite the country has wide gap between detection of TB infection and treatment for the patient.
TB is a serious health problem in Bangladesh and it ranks 6th globally in terms of TB burden on the population.
Every year, and estimated 80,000 Bangladeshi die from TB and another 190,000 new cases occur. Which means every hour, nine people die from the disease, despite effective treatments being easily available.
Most patients die for two broad reasons. First, those who remain undiagnosed, undetected and secondly, those who are hard-to-reach.
It is equally true that diagnosis is not always easy, and treatment of course takes several months. In such a situation the poor family members suffer financially due to curtail in income and could be driven to poverty, multiplying the burden of the disease.
The current prevalence of TB can be dramatically improved with the expertise developed over the decades and the health managers are confident to tackle the disease. The proposed target is a 95 per cent reduction in TB deaths and a 90 per cent reduction in new cases in 20 years period.
In Bangladesh, that could be achieved for US$300 million a year. The health expenses seem to be very high, but it would give each TB patient on an average about another 25 years of life, if $15 could be spent to provide treatment to patients.
The cost of TB per family in Bangladesh and the region is between $150-250, which is equivalent to an entire year's income of a poor family of the society.
Most cases of TB - drug sensitive ones - need a two-month intensive phase of drug treatment followed by four-month continuation phase. The full course needs to be completed to achieve a cure, but this can be possible in the community.
If the community health care of TB patient is brought under the programme, the chances of cure will rise. The success rate in Bangladesh is 92 per cent.
Experts opine that TB is obviously a problem in Bangladesh, but one which can be tackled effectively. Thus investment on TB would be a very good investment that would do world of good to the poorest sections of the society.
Saleem Samad is special correspondent, The Daily Observer