TB is far worse than COVID-19 for children. Tuberculosis (TB), while preventable and curable, is among the top ten causes of child mortality globally. TB predominantly affects the young and vulnerable: 80% of pediatric TB deaths occur among children younger than five. Children are particularly vulnerable and face challenges with regard to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of TB that are different from that of adults. The larger public health impact on child health, survival, and development is not widely recognized.
Ending childhood TB is therefore at the heart of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3.2: ‘to end the preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age’.
The only TB vaccine, the 100-year-old BCG, is given to newborns and protects against the most severe forms of TB in early childhood, but loses its effect before adolescence. Therefore, the experience of the rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines can be learned from; funding for TB vaccines could be frontloaded, and new science and research techniques can be applied to develop a novel TB vaccine. On the other hand, child-friendly TB medications are available, yet over 96% of children dying of TB never receive treatment. Stigma at school doubles the problem.
In Azerbaijan, the UNHLM childhood TB treatment target for 2019 was only achieved by 45% while 480 children fell ill with TB in 2019, according to the WHO latest TB report.
We think that political will and leadership are necessary to bring together key partners towards ending childhood TB.
As you know, World TB Day is approaching. In this context, TB Azerbaijan NGO Coalition organized various activities to highlight the safeguarding of children from TB.
An online event has been organised by our organization, and with the support of partners, to address some questions for decision-makers by the children. The event will be moderated by children who will masquerade as national cartoon characters. Two child celebrities have been invited for a musical performance. Another live (face-to-face) musical entertainment event is planned and will be conducted by children who survived TB with the aim of helping with the reintegration of children affected by TB into the community after being cured. Taking into account the need to build the capacity of specialists to enhance prevention, diagnostics, and care of pediatric TB, a scientific webinar has been organized for pediatricians and pulmonologists from Azerbaijan, inviting Turkish professors who specialized in childhood TB.
In this regard, we have some strong targets that aim to improve TB services and education programs for children affected by TB at the country level, also to achieve defense of all children from TB.
Written by Parvana Valiyeva Executive director “Saglamliga Khidmat” Non-Governmental Organization