MANILA, March 25 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine government is accelerating its efforts to eradicate tuberculosis (TB) in the Southeast Asian country by 2035, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Saturday.
The DOH led the launching of the Philippine Acceleration Plan for Tuberculosis on Friday to coincide with the commemoration of World TB Day.
DOH officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the government "aims to provide wider access to health services, and improved education and public information, social protection, and labor protection to eradicate TB by 2035."
"Over the past years, we have seen that cases of TB slowly increased," she told reporters.
The DOH reported 311,000 TB cases in 2021 compared to 263,000 in 2020. In 2022, the agency recorded 372,367 TB cases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region said the Philippines is among the few countries where the number of people with TB continues to increase yearly. And it is one of eight countries that accounted for more than two-thirds of global TB cases in 2021. Seven percent of the world's TB cases are in the Philippines.
In 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the UN health agency said about 1 million Filipinos have active TB disease, one of the highest prevalence rates in the world, after South Africa and Lesotho. It added that many TB patients develop drug-resistant TB, which is more expensive and difficult to treat.
According to the WHO, around 70 Filipinos die from TB every day. In a preliminary report from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) this year, TB ranks 11th among the causes of death in the Filipino population.
An airborne disease, TB is highly curable, yet it is the No.1 killer among all infectious diseases. The WHO said it remains one of the world's top infectious killers, causing 1.6 million deaths yearly and affecting millions more, with enormous impacts on families and communities.
The pandemic, coupled with ongoing crises such as armed conflict, food insecurity, climate change, political and economic instability, has reversed years of progress in the fight against TB. Last year the WHO reported, for the first time in nearly two decades, an increase in the number of people falling ill with TB and drug-resistant TB, alongside an increase in deaths.