“Iran an immense success story on TB suppression”: UN Resident Coordinator

United Nations Iran – “During the past 50 years, Iran has proven itself to be an immense success story in terms of TB suppression,” said UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Gary Lewis, yesterday.

He delivered these remarks at the conclusion of a four-day event organized in Tehran by Iran’s Centre of Disease Control (CDC) at Shahid Beheshti University.

Flashback to the year 1964.  In Iran, the reported cases of TB then stood at 143 per 100,000 persons.  Today, this figure stands at 16 per 100,000 persons.  By comparison, the current global average stands at almost exactly the same figure for Iran back in 1964.

And yet, several challenges remain in eliminating the disease.  According to Mr. Lewis, “the last kilometer is always the hardest”.  These include the fact that the disease is evolving to counter effective medication, and also its continued entry into Iran by persons migrating from countries to the east and north-east.

However, the immense success of what Iran has managed to achieve in recent decades, was cause to celebrate at the event.

The celebration coincided with the commemoration of National TB Day and among the attendees and speakers were Dr. Mohammad Mehdi Gouya, Head of CDC and Mr. Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative.

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Dr. Mohammad Mehdi Gouya, Head of CDC

Speaking at opening, Dr. Gouya said: “Globally, in 2015, there were an estimated 10.4 million new cases of TB with six countries accounting for 60% of the total with India leading the count followed by Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.”

He added: “Today, TB remains one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide.  New data from WHO reveals that the global TB burden is higher than previously estimated.  Countries – including Iran – need to move much faster to prevent, detect and treat TB if the “End TB Strategy” targets are to be achieved in the next 15 years.  The strategy – to which Iran has committed – aims to end the global TB epidemic, with targets to reduce TB deaths by 95% and to cut new cases by 90% between 2015 and 2035, and to ensure that no family is burdened with catastrophic expenses due to TB.”

Referring to the joint partnership between the Government of Iran, the Global Fund and UNDP Iran, Mr. Lewis said: “While our joint TB programme was successfully completed in the year 2015, together we achieved many goals.”  He pointed to the following:

  • Increasing national attention and sensitization of decision-makers, personnel and health care workers towards TB control programme in prisons.
  • Improved TB programme technical standards by upgrading the labs.
  • Establishing/upgrading 66 Direct Smear Microscopy (DSM) labs, 40 Culture Lab and 8 Drug Susceptibility Test labs.
  • Improvement in surveillance system (i.e., reporting, and recording system) in prisons.
  • Improvement in Directly Observed Treatment Short-Course (DOTS) coverage.
  • Contributing to a treatment success rate of 87% against the target of 84% per cent.
  • Procurement of 4 GeneXpert machines that greatly helped strengthen the capacities for detecting drug resistant TB cases.
  • Development, launch and implementation of Transition and Sustainability Plan of TB project to ensure that the investment and achievement of TB project is integrated into the national system and financial sustainability is guaranteed.

Mr. Lewis concludes with a reference to Iran’s need to embrace and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  “One of the targets of the United Nations is ending the TB epidemic by 2030.  This target is achievable.  TB is curable.  The United Nations – and UNDP in particular – stand ready to assist the Government of Iran to achieve this goal.”