Bruce Warwick, Health Advocacy Assistant at RESULTS UK, takes a look at multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in the Russian Federation. 

Tuberculosis (TB) and, in particular, multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB has long been a substantial burden in many countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union many in these countries were left with uneven access to health care that allowed resistant strains of TB to flourish. As a result, the European Region now has one of the highest burdens of MDR-TB in the world. An estimated 76,000 cases occurred in 2011, accounting for nearly 25 percent of cases worldwide.

Credit: PIH
Credit: PIH

National governments in the region have often been slow to act in addressing this issue and, in many cases, much of the effort in fighting TB has been financed by external organisations, such as Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and malaria.

The Russian Federation is no exception. Traditionally, it has been helped in dealing with it’s growing rates of MDR by both USAID and the Global Fund. Both have financially supported a variety of well regarded programmes, projects and NGOs throughout the country which have been aiming to get the epidemic back under control. Yet, these organisations have now been forced to abandon the country after the Russian government began to refuse their help (the Global Fund) or kicked them out (USAID).

Below we share the fascinating video report, The Rising Spectre of Tuberculosis Across Russia, by Victoria Macdonald, Health and Social Care Correspondent for Channel 4 News, which details the work that has been done in Russia and illustrates the concerns that exist for the future.

We certainly hope that national governments throughout the Eastern Europe and Central Asian region and beyond realise the great urgency in financing TB care and control. If we do not, collectively, take action now we face not only more suffering but also far greater costs in eliminating the disease in the years to come. As Macdonald points out in her blog piece on the topic:

This is not just a Russian problem, experts warn. TB does not stay within the confines of hospital wards or prisons. Nor does it recognise borders. This is a disease spreading far beyond the Russian Federation.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Blog owner