Government nutrition rations and industry support crucial in tackling TB in India: NGO founder

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

Recent reports revealed 17,000 new TB cases annually in Telangana, with 6,000 new cases in its capital Hyderabad alone. ©Getty Images
Recent reports revealed 17,000 new TB cases annually in Telangana, with 6,000 new cases in its capital Hyderabad alone. ©Getty Images
The Indian government should provide nutrition rations to tuberculosis patients if it is serious about improving their nutrition and tackling the high prevalence of the disease in the country, according to the founder of an NGO that works closely with several government hospitals.

Indian media recently reported that in light of over 17,000 new TB cases annually in the southern Indian state of Telangana — 6,000 new cases in its capital Hyderabad alone — finance minister Arun Jaitley had allocated a total of US$90m under the Union budget to help fight the disease.

However, the monthly allocation of a meagre US$7 to provide TB patients with nutritional support while they undergo treatment has been criticised by medical professionals and NGOs alike.

Founder of NGO Helping Hand Foundation, Mujtaba Hasan Askari, said: "With patients having to collect medicines every week, the money will not even cover their travel expenses, let alone nutrition.

"If we are serious about nutrition, then rations should be provided under the central government for all TB patients."

The correct approach?

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia,​ he revealed: "Most of the TB patients in India are from the lower economic strata and have to take medication for a long time.

"Worse, the disease sometimes results in wage losses, making them unable to afford a good diet, which is the cornerstone for good treatment outcomes."

At the same time, experts have pointed out that many patients who cannot afford the medication (costing about US$42 a month) end up discontinuing treatment.

Askari said, "The only way to support these patients is to provide them adequate nutrition under the government's Public Distribution System (PDS). This is the only sustainable and successful formula for early recovery in TB patients."

He emphasised the importance of a high-protein diet, saying the PDS was vital if there was to be any hope of providing such a high volume of rations, which would ideally include rice, pulses and eggs.

He added: "Food companies can endorse such campaigns and create goodwill. They will have to work with local state TB offices and work out a programme at the state level to help improve nutrition for TB patients."

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