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200 beds, 200 patients:

National Institute of Diseases of the Chest and Hospital (NIDCH) in Dhaka.

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Darkness, chipped walls, old rusty tools. The time, here, is marked only by the drops falling inside the glass drip. Hoarse voices, fragile necks slightly bent, thin arms, slender fingers. The muscles no longer exist, only skin that cover the shape of the bones. Protruding ribs resembling the reinforcement bars that come out from the concrete of these buildings that all around fall apart. Sunken eyes, but bright and glistening. Livid and pale expressions.

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Tuberculosis (TB), affects all age groups in all parts of the world. In 2015, 1.8 million people died from the disease, with 10.4 million falling ill. However, the disease mostly affects young adults and people living in developing countries. It remains a major public health problem here in Bangladesh since decades. The country ranks fourth in the world for both prevalence of TB and TB mortalities.

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Every year, in Bangladesh, around 200 thousand new cases of tuberculosis occur and about 80 thousand people die. It means that every hour nine people die from the disease, despite effective treatments being available. It is estimated that about 81 thousand people died in 2014 due to TB.

Diagnosis is not always easy and treatment takes several months; meanwhile, loss of earnings for the sufferer drive families into poverty, multiplying the burden of the disease. Bangladesh has high rates of migration and the transient population faces poverty, overcrowding and poorly ventilated living and working conditions, all of which allow TB to spread. In addition to this, there is no awareness about TB infection in many parts of the population.

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For some time now, there is a method to treat tuberculosis, freely available as part of the government’s program, called Directly Observed Chemotherapy. However, most of the population does not know about this. If the importance of a disease for mankind is measured by the number of deaths it causes, tuberculosis should be considered the most important of the most feared infectious diseases.

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