Today saw the launch of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Tuberculosis Report 2013 whichmade it clear that there is not nearly enough being done to combat a disease that continues to place a terrible burden upon so many in all corners of the world.

The report shows that TB deaths have only decreased from 1.4 million in 2011 to 1.3 million in 2012, a decrease of just 2%. Worryingly, these aren’t the most striking figures to emerge from the report. It shows that about three million people each year aren’t being diagnosed and getting the treatment they need.

In addition, the report asserts that multidrug-resistant TB must be considered a public health crisis. The WHO estimate that 450,00 people fell ill with MDR-TB in 2012 alone. This strain is not only more costly to treat but treatment of the strains can burden individuals with often intolerable side-effects. That is if you’re lucky enough to actually receive the treatment. At least 16,000 MDR-TB cases reported to WHO in 2012 were not put on treatment and only 48% of those were enrolled on treatment were cured at the end of the two year period.

Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, declared that we are sitting and watching a ticking timebomb and that complacency is unacceptable. In the light of the WHO reporting, Dr Ditiu did highlight that many are trying to make a difference:

In the TB community, we have been aware of the missing three million for a few years now. This is why, supported by the Canadian government, we launched TB REACH in 2010. This initiative provides partners with funding to innovate and reach undetected TB cases in some of the most poorly-served and vulnerable communities. The innovative models emerging from TB REACH projects have the potential to reach a large number of the missing TB cases.

Despite initiatives like TB REACH, progress is evidently far too slow. This progress is under further threat as a result of a $2 billion annual funding gap in 2013 and 2014. In order to reach those undiagnosed or untreated it is critical that there is renewed urgency and commitment to tackling TB.

These statistics are unacceptable. What is so important to remember are that there are millions of stories behind these numbers, and millions of people that are having to deal with TB everyday.

Another report was also launched today in London, UK TB Voices: The Stories Behind the Statistics, which highlights what some have to go through in their fight against TB. One of the patients interviewed for the report, Natalie, described the extended delay she experienced before receiving an accurate diagnosis: “I was in pain for six years before they diagnosed me with TB.” The treatment for TB can be long and arduous, which was the case for Natalie: “The side-effects hit me hard and I was completely unprepared for them. I was vomiting a lot. I developed rashes all over my body. In total, I took over 2,500 pills in six months.”

Andrew George a UK MP and co-chair of the parliamentary group on Global TB said: “The stories found in this report are examples of remarkable courage and determination, but they are also examples of the daily reality of fighting the disease, played out a million times every day across the planet. It is the daily reality for too many people, and that’s why my colleagues and I in the Westminster parliament are determined to keep up the pressure for positive change.”