Leadership for accelerating the fight against TB in Africa
amidst the COVID-19 pandemic
Health Ministers from eleven African countries come together to define
priority actions and financing needed to accelerate their TB responses
Geneva, Switzerland (20 November 2020) - High-level government representatives from 11 African countries, representing three-quarters of tuberculosis (TB) burden in Africa, met on 19 November to discuss accelerated actions and increased financing needed to be on track to reach the United Nations High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB targets.
Nigerian President, His Excellency Muhammad Buhari, delivered the keynote speech officially opening the meeting. “It is imperative that we not only commit to ending the TB epidemic as one of the milestones enshrined in the SDGs but also to implement an accountability mechanism to ensure we achieve the desired results,” said President Buhari. “It is more important than ever to work together with the latest technology to address the TB epidemic. I commend the work done by Stop TB towards ending TB all over the world, despite numerous challenges.”
This special African roundtable virtual session took place in the margins of the 33rd Stop TB Partnership Board Meeting and was convened by the Stop TB Partnership in collaboration with the African Union, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Ministry of Health of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The roundtable discussion included Ministers of Health and other high-level representations from Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
While countries had been scaling up efforts to reach the UNHLM targets, the COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on TB programs worldwide in high TB burden countries. Participants stressed the need to ensure continued access to lifesaving TB care amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and to make resources available to scale up prevention, diagnosis and care. In May 2020, the modelling study done by Stop TB Partnership showed that as a direct result of the disruption caused by the pandemic, approximately an additional 6.3 million people around the world are at risk of contracting TB, which could result in 1.4 million additional deaths between 2020 and 2025.
The meeting was moderated by Dr. Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of Stop TB Partnership, who applauded countries' strong support, continued commitment to end tuberculosis and the need to strengthen further efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and provide essential TB care and prevention. “The Stop TB Partnership commends the efforts of African leaders to address this important public health issue. Together, we need to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on TB services and integrate our efforts to improve TB case finding, diagnosis, treatment and care,” said Dr. Ditiu.
“We need to scale up our response, or we will not fulfill the UN Political Declaration on TB, which was endorsed by the Heads of States in 2018. At the Global Fund, we stand ready to work with you to reach your targets and end TB as a global public health problem," said Mark Edington, Head of Grant Management, Global Fund.
Speaking on behalf of the African Union, H.E. Mrs. Mariama Cisse called on countries to urgently develop and implement catch-up plans for the TB response to make up for lost time due to COVID-19. She highlighted childhood TB and called for enhanced actions to address it. “TB has been with us for over a century, and it is time as a region to work towards its elimination. The 2020 TB Scorecard of the African Union, developed with WHO and Stop TB Partnership has shown our TB programs still suffer from inadequate financing and that more work needs to be done to increase financing if we want to meet the 2022 UNHLM targets.”
“We need a significant increase in our efforts to reach UNHLM targets. In Africa, TB deaths far outweigh deaths due to COVID-19, underlining how important it is to maintain focus on TB in order to save lives during this Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Suvanand Sahu, Deputy Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership.