TB to cost world economy $1 trillion by 2030, warns report

An MDR-TB patient in Rayong province, Thailand, receives directly observed therapy in his home. Photo by: USAID Asia / CC BY-NC

BARCELONA — Tuberculosis will cost the world economy close to $1 trillion in lost economic output by 2030, unless countries step up efforts to fight the disease, according to a report launched today by the Global TB Caucus, a group of over 2,300 parliamentarians from 130 countries. The disease cost the world more than $600 billion from 2000 to 2015.

The study launches ahead of the first World Health Organization Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB, which will take place in Moscow on November 16-17. The event will convene 1,000 participants from 100 states, including 74 ministers of health from the top 40 highest TB and multi-drug-resistant TB burden countries. Leaders from U.N. agencies, civil society, the private sector, and donors will also be in attendance.

The conference will result in a ministerial declaration with commitments to accelerate efforts in ending TB and will inform the first ever U.N. high-level meeting on TB in 2018.

“These are not doomsday figures, but the simple calculation of what the cost will be if we fail to beat this disease according to the timetable the world itself has set,” Nick Herbert, U.K. MP and co-chair of the Global TB Caucus, told Devex. “The scale of the economic cost is striking, and it does not even include what might happen in relation to drug resistance.”

According to the report, the most economically affected region will be Asia-Pacific ($573 billion from 2015 to 2030), followed by Africa ($303 billion), Europe and Central Asia ($64 billion), and the Americas ($42 billion).

At the current rate of progress, the SDG’s target of eliminating TB by 2030 will be missed by 150 years, and an additional 28 million people will die within 15 years, according to the report, which was produced by KPMG based on figures from WHO.

Role of the BRICS

In a business-as-usual scenario, the G-20 will account for six of the 10 most economically affected countries, and its members will incur over two-thirds — $675 billion — of the cost. The G-20 acknowledged TB as a priority for the first time in May 2017, but specific actions have yet to be undertaken.

Within the G-20, the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa account for nearly half of all TB cases in the world. They could play a crucial role in turning the tide on the pandemic because “they have a high burden of TB, but also the resources, if necessary, to commit to this disease,” said Herbert.

According to the report, over a dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa are also expected to suffer losses equivalent to 1 percent of their GDP from TB by 2030, with Mozambique and Lesotho among those most gravely affected. Even countries such as the U.K. are expected to face costs as high as $2 billion.

The co-chair of the Global TB Caucus in the Americas, Luis Enrique Gallo, recently met with Argentinian authorities to press for the inclusion of TB in the agenda of the 2018 G-20 Buenos Aires summit. “As the report shows, we will not save money by cutting on TB programs now, but by investing in them,” he told Devex.

Funding and accountability

The report calls for a coordinated response across government departments and national programs. It urges world leaders to close the funding gap and commit to an independent accountability mechanism at the head of state level.

“It is primarily a matter of political will, because the overall sum of money that has to be found between the world’s nations is perfectly within reach if we all act together,” says Herbert. WHO estimates the funding gap for TB implementation and research at $2 billion and $1 billion, respectively.

Read more Devex coverage on global health.

About the author

  • Gloria Pallares

    Gloria Pallares is a journalist reporting on sustainable development, global health and humanitarian aid from Africa and Europe. Her work has appeared in a range of publications including El Pais, Forbes, CIFOR’s Forest News and the leading media outlets in Spain via the multimedia newswire Europa Press.