Roundtable: NGOs should come forward to eradicate tuberculosis 

Participants at a roundtable hosted by the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) and Prothom Alo, in collaboration with Stop TB Partnership, marking the world tuberculosis day on Saturday.Prothom Alo

Tuberculosis remains a significant health challenge in Bangladesh, primarily due to lack of awareness and early detection measures. 

On average, 1,038 people are being diagnosed with tuberculosis daily in the country, where around 13 are found with drug resistance. Medicines leave no impact on the particular tuberculosis patients due to insufficient drug consumption, incomplete medical course, and inaccurate treatment.  

The disease claims an average of 115 lives per day, though nearly 95 per cent of cases are curable through timely detection and proper treatment.

The scenario was presented in a roundtable – World Tuberculosis Day: Private Partnerships in Tuberculosis and Public Health Development – at the Prothom Alo office in Dhaka on Saturday.

The International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) and Prothom Alo, in collaboration with Stop TB Partnership, hosted the programme, marking the world tuberculosis day. 

Speakers noted that Bangladesh is among the top 30 countries in the world that are grappling with large-scale tuberculosis patients. The development partners now support tuberculosis eradication efforts in Bangladesh, but it may come to an end in 2026 following its graduation from the group of least developed countries (LDCs). 

Therefore, non-government organisations (NGOs) and corporate entities should come forward to eradicate tuberculosis. Also, there should be a social movement to help eradicate the disease, they said. 

Addressing the programme, Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general for planning and development at the directorate general of health services (DGHS), underscored the need for collective action to contain tuberculosis, like the efforts against the coronavirus infections. She called for a behavioural change as it has been a habit to live with tuberculosis. 

“More than a thousand people get infected with tuberculosis a day, a rate higher than that of Covid-19 and dengue. An individual who developed a cough may prevent the spread of tuberculosis by using masks,” she explained.

From left, Mahafuzer Rahman Sarker, Sayera Banu, Meerjady Sabrina Flora, and Samina Chowdhury at the roundtable at Prothom Alo office on 23 March 2024.
Prothom Alo

Highlighting the role of non-government organisations in tuberculosis eradication, Samina Chowdhury, infectious disease team leader at USAID, laid emphasis on making the NGOs aware of their responsibilities and engaging the youth in the process, instead of spreading panic among the patients. 

Shahriar Ahmed, assistant scientist at icddr,b, presented the keynote speech in the programme, highlighting the basics of tuberculosis. The disease spreads through the sneezes, coughs and sputum of tuberculosis patients and around 25 per cent of the total world population are now suffering from it. 

People with malnourishment, unhygienic residence, minors, elderly people, diabetic patients, alcohol addicts and smokers, residents with indoor air pollution, consumers of drugs that weaken the immune system are at risk of tuberculosis. Now, a total of 379,000 people are suffering from the disease in Bangladesh, where 52 per cent are male, 40 per cent are female, and 8 per cent are children, according to the presentation. 

Sayera Banu, chief of the infectious diseases division at icddr,b, said all tuberculosis patients have not yet been diagnosed and brought under medical care. Some people do not even have any idea that it is a serious health complication. 

She emphasised on extensive awareness campaigns irrespective of social classifications and coordinated efforts of public and private agencies. 

Mahafuzer Rahman Sarker, line director of the national tuberculosis control programme (NTP) at DGHS, briefed the participants that there are 622 sophisticated GeneXpert test machines to diagnose tuberculosis across the country. The government aims to reduce tuberculosis-induced deaths by 90 per cent and new infections by 80 per cent by 2035, in comparison with 2015. 

Apart from them, Syed Abdul Hamid, health economics department professor at Dhaka University; Akramul Islam, senior director of BRAC; Shishir Moral, special correspondent of Prothom Alo, shared their perspectives on the occasion. 

Besides, Zahidul Islam, vice president of Nagad; Swarnalata Roy, president of Sylhet women chamber of commerce and industry; Md Muhshin, director (marketing operations at ACI Limited; Rubina Khan, head of human resource at BEXIMCO Petro; Syed Jakir Hossain, coordinator of tuberculosis control programme at BGMEA; SM Mostafa Zaman, cardiology department professor at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU); Sheikh Abdullah Fattah, head of medicine department at Green Life Medical College and Hospital; and Mahmudul Hasan Khan, senior manager of SMC spoke at the roundtable. 

Firoz Choudhury, assistant editor of Prothom Alo, moderated the event.