Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Tuberculosis in complex emergencies

Rudi Coninx

This paper describes the key factors and remaining challenges for tuberculosis (TB) control programmes in complex emergencies. A complex emergency is “a humanitarian crisis in a country, region or society where there is total or considerable breakdown of authority resulting from internal or external conflict and which requires an international response that goes beyond the mandate or capacity of any single agency and/or the ongoing United Nations country programme.” Some 200 million people are believed to live in countries affected by complex emergencies; almost all of these are developing countries that also bear the main burden of TB. The effects of complex emergencies impact on TB control programmes, interfering with the goals of identifying and curing TB patients and possibly leading to the emergence of MDR-TB. There are many detailed descriptions of aid interventions during complex emergencies; yet TB control programmes are absent from most of these reports. If TB is neglected, it may quickly result in increased morbidity and mortality, as was demonstrated in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Somalia. TB is a major disease in complex emergencies and requires an appropriate public health response. While there is no manual to cover complex emergencies, the interagency manual for TB control in refugee and displaced populations provides valuable guidance. These programmes contribute to the body of evidence needed to compile such a manual, and should ensure that the experiences of TB control in complex emergencies lead to the establishment of evidence-based programmes.

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