Statement by UNDP Resident Representative in the Kyrgyz Republic, Ms Louise Chamberlain, on World Tuberculosis Day 24 March 2020
Every year on March 24th the world celebrates World Tuberculosis Day, to commemorate the global goal of eradicating this preventable disease. Since 2011, UNDP has successfully been implementing a Global Fund grant to help Kyrgyzstan fight the TB and HIV epidemics. We purchase anti-TB drugs for more than 1,200 Kyrgyz citizens every year and support the National TB Program and the Ministry of Health in providing free TB treatment for every patient in the country. We ensure that drugs are of best quality, safely transported and stored. We prevent drug shortages and reach every patient. Improved diagnostic, better treatments, individual care and support, trained doctors and a strengthened health care system overall have contributed to saving hundreds of lives. We have also trained 1,000 medical workers around the country to provide the necessary support and information to TB patients and their relatives.
This year’s World TB Day is marked by an ongoing global pandemic that is placing a heavy burden on Kyrgyz hospitals and doctors and putting at risk the lives of the most vulnerable, especially the elderly and people with diseases such as TB.
It is now more important than ever to reinforce health care systems and protect vulnerable populations. Patients with TB are at higher risks of developing difficult forms of the new Corona virus. We need to do everything we can to protect them.
Some people will get sick with COVID-19 and show mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. But they can infect others who will develop more complicated forms of the disease. By staying at home we can save lives, reducing the spread of COVID-19. We need to make sure that everyone does not get sick at the same time, so that there are enough doctors, beds and ventilators for every patient. And that doctors can continue treating patients with other health issues, like tuberculosis.
During this new pandemic, you may not be able to visit TB patients in hospitals, to protect them from being infected with COVID-19. But you can call and write and make them laugh and feel loved, every day. If you know a neighbor or a friend who has TB, offer to go shopping for them.
Recall the critical ways to protect yourself and others:
Hand Hygiene: Regularly wash your hands with soap or disinfectant for at least 20 seconds, use alcohol-based hand rub if water is not available.
Respiratory Etiquette: Cough and sneeze in your elbow or in a disposable tissue (then discard the tissue and perform hand hygiene).
Social distancing – stay at least 1 m from other people at all times. Stay at home and save lives. Stay at home even if you have only mild symptoms of cold and flu.