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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - July 16, 2001: WHO and Tuberculosis - 2001-07-16

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The World Health Organization says the disease tuberculosis could be brought under control in the next five years if nations would provide more money. The health agency is asking member countries to give an additional four-hundred-million dollars a year to help fight the disease.

Gro Harlem Brundtland heads the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Doctor Brundtland says tuberculosis will be a major target in the coming year. About eight-million people around the world are sick with tuberculosis, or T-B. However, only twenty-three percent of these people receive treatment.

Between Nineteen-Ninety-Seven and Nineteen-Ninety-Nine, the total number of tuberculosis infections increased six percent. This rise in T-B was seen mostly in Africa. Experts say this is because the disease AIDS has decreased the ability of people’s defense systems to fight T-B. The W-H-O estimates that one-third of all the people who die from T-B also have AIDS.

The health agency called for more financial help in a report to the organization’s one-hundred-ninety-one members. The report said about two-million people die each year from T-B. Nearly all of these deaths are in developing countries. The W-H-O plans to target twenty-two of the countries most affected by the disease. These include India, China, Indonesia and Nigeria.

The W-H-O says the extra money will be used to train more health workers. The money is also needed to improve health systems in some countries. And it will be used to help officials who give out and supervise treatment. The cost of treatment for tuberculosis is low -- only about ten dollars for a full six-month series of drugs. Patients must take the medicine every day or the treatment will not be effective. If a patient stops taking the medicine, a new kind of T-B bacteria may develop which is resistant to the drugs.

The World Health Organization says the additional money could extend T-B treatment to seventy percent of infected people around the world. The health agency believes the number of T-B deaths could be cut in half by the year Two-Thousand-Ten. However, without the additional money, the W-H-O expects tuberculosis deaths to increase by one-hundred percent over the next ten years.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.