24 March 2008

world tuberculosis day

today, march 24, is the international day against tuberculosis. if you're wondering why we need such a day, the world health organization's latest report will tell you that 9.2 million people were infected with the disease and 1.5 million died from it in 2006 (the latest year for which data is available). the majority of these people live in the developing world.

i became familiar with the disease over the past few months, when reading cases of starvation and tb related deaths amongst a weaving community in varanasi, india.

"The decline of India’s weaving industry, particularly the hand woven sari trade of Varanasi--which once enjoyed great prosperity—has led to many deaths, from hunger and tuberculosis... While the cases involving malnutrition and starvation clearly indicate the complete failure of India’s food distribution system and relevant government bureaucracies, the cases of tuberculosis infection spotlight the country’s failing health care system."

"The decline of the handloom weaving industry—caused by the introduction of the power loom, cheap imports and a lack of government intervention—has led to many weavers being out of work. These weavers were proud of their occupation, which was a family trade, passed on through several generations. One such weaver, Jamaluddin, who has been working as a weaver for about 20 years, is racked with illness and weakening eyesight. He has now given up weaving and taken to carpentry, a trade alien to him. He earns only 20 -25 rupees a day, with which he cannot make ends meet. His child is also sick, but he cannot afford medical treatment for his child or himself. Jamaluddin told the tribunal that he burns up all the medical prescriptions in rage and frustration."

you can read the entire article here.

another concern regarding tb is the prevalence of infection amongst those suffering from HIV/AIDS. (this might be a good topic for my next africa post). according to india's health and family welfare minister, not only are women more prone to HIV infections, but at present tb is the "single biggest killer of young women".

world tb day tells you what is being done to change this situation.

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