TB survivor urges PM to end deadly disease in Asia-Pacific

LILI Koch was just 4-years-old when she almost died from tuberculosis.

She was living in Switzerland in the 1940s and was sent to a children’s sanatorium in the Alps. Back then, plenty of bed rest and fresh air was the only known cure.

The Seaforth resident said it was a very traumatic time in her childhood.

“I was away from my family for 3 months, part of this time was spent quarantined in a tiny room on my own.No toys, radio or TV–I didn’t even know how to read yet! I felt totally abandoned and it was absolutely miserable,” Lili remembered.

Fortunately, after many more months of being kept away from other children and kindergarten, Lili recovered from the disease that still kills more than a million people worldwide each year.

“Like most people, I thought TB was a relic of the past. The sanatorium I was a patient at closed down and we had a cure.We forgot about it,” Lili said.

Working as a Director at Australian Doctors Internationalshe said she was shocked to discover that TB had persisted in many parts of the world and hasreinvented itself so it can keep on killing.

“I was absolutely horrified to find out that multi-drug resistant TB had grown at an alarming rate, especially in PapuaNew Guinea, our closest neighbour,” Lili said.

Half of the world’s TB cases occur in the Asia-Pacific, primarily in PNG.

Lili also volunteers for RESULTS International (Australia) who works closely with parliamentarians and their constituents to generate thepublicand political will to end extreme poverty.

Coinciding with World TB Day on Monday, March 24, she will send her Member of Parliament, Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a letter to ask that he has a change of heart and reverse his decision to cut federal funding into vitalmedical research.

“All the Governmenthas to do is to simply reinstate and continue the funding that was scrapped from the budget for medical research into TB. It started in 2012 and was showing very promising results,” Lili added.

In January, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade decided that $10 million in funding would not continue for its Medical Research Strategy in 2013-14.

“It’s not just about foreign aid, it affects every Australian. TB doesn’t care where it is in the world.”