On 26 September in New York, global leaders gathered at the first ever United Nations High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis (TB) knows no boarders – it affects all countries and all age groups! In the latest 2018 Global Tuberculosis Report released by World Health Organisation (WHO), burden of TB is falling worldwide but not fast enough to reach the first 2020 milestones of the End TB Strategy. In 2017, there were an estimated 10 million new cases of TB and about 1.6 million deaths were recorded.
Under the theme ‘United to end tuberculosis: An urgent global response to a global epidemic,’ this meeting served as an opportunity for Heads of State to make clear commitments to fight tuberculosis and reaching all affected people with prevention and care. In attendance of this highly anticipated meeting was Bill Gates, co-chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who commended the need for ‘A higher degree of political leadership and more concrete actions are required’ in order to speed up progress towards 2030 goals. Over 15 Heads of State addressed the opening plenary session with nearly 80 Ministers of Health and Ministers of Foreign Affairs addressing the plenary, many from high TB-burden countries appealing the world to take note. For instance, in his speech South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa echoed that:
Read more of the statements here
Speaking at the opening session on behalf of communities affected by TB, Nandita Venkatesan urged global leaders to back up this declaration with tangible actions. She expressed this further in her statement ‘For those that need care, scientific progress must reach all those who need it quickly,’ receiving a two-minute ovation for her powerful remarks. Significant highlights of this first-ever high-level meeting saw world leaders endorsing a UN Political Declaration on TB. Member states agreed to nearly double global levels of TB funding to reach the target of USD13 billion per year by 2022 and to reach $2 billion in R&D funding. Apart from world leaders’ commitment to diagnosing and treating 40 million people with TB successfully and providing 30 million people with preventive treatment of TB by 2022, this political declaration factored in many of the key asks and targets launched by Stop TB Partnership and key TB stakeholders earlier this year.
Inasmuch as world leaders endorsed the political declaration, there were no commitments to a robust and independent mechanism of ensuring accountability. However, WACI Health together with other civil society and TB affected communities, will be closely monitoring progress and holding governments accountable for delivering on their commitments. There is still a huge gap in funding towards research – as civil society, we still call on our governments invest a certain percentage of annual expenditure on research and development in TB.