KIGALI, The WHO representative in Rwanda, Dr Olu Olushayo Friday called for more concerted efforts in the fight against tuberculosis (TB), still one of the top causes of deaths worldwide.

“We still have a lot of work to do not only to sustain and build upon the current achievements but also address the emerging challenges, so that we can bring the TB scourge to the end in Africa and Rwanda in particular,” he said, during an event to mark World Tuberculosis Day in Kigali.

There were a staggering 10.4 million new cases of TB estimated in 2015 globally, according to WHO.

Olushayo said countries need to intensify efforts to reach, treat and cure everyone infected with TB.

He observed that the poorest and most vulnerable people, who are disproportionately affected by TB, need special attention along with underserved areas which lack access to basic health services.

Issues such as malnutrition, poor housing sanitation, environment pollution, poverty and the risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol use should be addressed, as they increase vulnerability to TB, according to experts.

Rwanda joined the world to celebrate World Tuberculosis Day with focus on the young population in Kigali.

The World Tuberculosis Day is annually celebrated on March 24, to build public awareness on the tuberculosis epidemic which claims one-and-a-half million people each year, mostly in developing countries.

With the theme, “Unite to End TB”, Rwanda’s ministry of health announced plans to increase public awareness on TB diagnosis, treatment and prevention among Rwandan community.

Core on the ministry’s plan is having access to adequate TB care, including diagnosis, treatment and cure.

The fight against TB in Rwanda has been a success over the years, officials said, with cases declining from 7,230 in 2011 to 5,763 in 2016.

Patrick Migambi, Division manager of TB at Rwanda Biomedical Center said the mortality rate in the country has come from 66 percent per 100,000 people to 36 percent per 100,000.

He cited various strategies put in place to fight the disease such as screening of TB among high-risk group like those infected with HIV, children under 15 years of age, elderly people, and prisoners.