Ban Ki-Moon urges nations to increase TB prevention efforts

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged countries on Thursday to increase their efforts to prevent tuberculosis by improving the quality of health services and raising access to treatments to stop the deadly disease.

Ban made the speech ahead of World Tuberculosis Day, which is observed on March 24. TB is a major cause of death from infectious diseases worldwide, second to HIV/AIDS. There were 8.4 million people infected with TB last year with 1.4 million deaths.

"For too long, the response has been insufficient," Ban said. "(I call for) intensified global solidarity to ensure that the children and people of all the countries get medical support, so that they can breathe with health."

Ban spoke at the Institute of Respiratory Medicine in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He said that countries have the ability to prevent unnecessary deaths, but must implement policies to raise awareness about the issue and to provide their citizens with accessible healthcare.

The World Health Organization and the Stop TB Partnership have warned that childhood TB remains overlooked despite treatment availability. The organizations said that the disease typically goes undiagnosed in children under the age of 15 due to a lack of access to health services or that health workers do not recognize the symptoms and signs of TB in the age group.

"Two hundred children die from TB every day," Lucica Ditiu, the executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, said. "Yet it costs less than three cents a day to provide therapy that will prevent children from becoming ill with TB and 50 cents a day to provide treatment that will cure the disease. But before we can give prevention or treatment we have to find the children at risk of TB, and this will only happen if governments, civil society and the private sector work together."