Russia registered a welcome decline in several infectious diseases in 1996, including measles and diphtheria, but tuberculosis, unfortunately, was not one of them. TB kills over 20,000 people a year in Russia and, because of the country’s continuing social upheaval, the disease is spreading fast.
Reports by watchdog organizations such as the US-based Human Rights Watch/Helsinki have long been argued that serious overcrowding and shortages of medical facilities in Russia’s notorious remand centers constitute a violation of human rights. Now, the World Health Organization (WHO), which recently launched a worldwide campaign to curtail the spread of TB, has warned that Russia’s prisons are turning into breeding grounds for drug-resistant strains of TB that spread to the rest of the population after the prisoners are released. The homeless are also at special risk, as shown by last weekend’s rounding up of 400 vagrant children by police in Yekaterinburg. "The recent dramatic increase in TB cases is a clear reflection of the economic turmoil and social upheaval in Russia since 1990," the WHO says in a recently published report. (International Herald Tribune, March 18; Itar-Tass March 24; Russian TV, March 30)
The CIS Summit: Lukashenko "the Most Friendly" to Moscow.