SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2016

IFRC and Global Fund sign TB agreement for Niger

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies signed an agreement on Friday to provide funding for universal tuberculosis treatment in Niger.

The two-year, $13.5 million grant from the Global Fund will allow Niger to provide quality TB diagnosis and treatment services to its entire estimated population of 17 million people. The grant will also expand and enhance TB services for more than 26,000 people in 200 treatment centers by 2014, including individuals in vulnerable populations.

Niger is a country with one of the worst TB rates in West Africa. Worldwide, TB kills 1.3 million people annually and infects an additional 8.6 million people, despite it being a preventable and curable disease.

"Access to sustainable diagnosis and treatment services is a burning priority in a country like Niger, where a lack of predictable funding, sustained technical support and health care workers have seriously undermined the government's capacity to regularly provide quality TB services and distribute drugs," Bekele Geleta, the secretary general of the IFRC, said. "With support from the Global Fund, we will be able to ensure access to treatment for people living in the most underprivileged areas, especially those facing discrimination and living on the margins of society."

While overall numbers of people with TB have fallen in Niger in recent years, the disease continues to put a heavy strain on an overburdened health system. Most TB cases can be cured when medicines are provided and taken as prescribed, but treatment can take up to six months and requires extensive supervision and patient support.

"This grant will support and strengthen existing in-country capacities, working closely with the National Tuberculosis Program of the Ministry of Health," Mark Dybul, the executive director of the Global Fund, said. "The IFRC is an excellent partner combining a unique community perspective and experience that will accelerate scale-up of TB interventions and provide faster screening of at-risk populations."