Despite its needless burden of death and distress, child TB has long been ignored in the developing world simply because sick children don’t pose the same threat of contagion as adults with the disease. This neglect can no longer be excused on grounds of economy or expediency, as recent advances make it easier than ever to identify and cure child TB, while scientific and technical innovation holds out the possibility of even more effective diagnostics, treatment and preventive measures in the near future.
The burden of child TB is highest in low- and middle-income countries, but its significance is global, challenging the world to fulfil the promise implicit in the concept of universal human rights.
Technical capacity alone isn’t enough, as some of the biggest obstacles to reducing child TB mortality are structural, including lack of basic knowledge about TB symptoms and treatments in communities with limited resources. Tackling child TB requires local interventions, sensitive to social and cultural context, to reach at-risk children using simple tools for active screening and diagnosis. Programmes already operating in places such as Uganda provide useful models that are easily scalable and adaptable to other high-burden regions around the world.