27th September 2015, New York, United States - Among the long motorcades accompanying Heads of State and the many high-level events here at the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit in New York, it’s easy to forget that the key theme of the Summit is ‘Leave No One Behind’.
I was honoured to be in the presence of Tisungen yesterday, a 13 year old Malawi girl who traveled to New York to remind global leaders of the need to translate the SDGs into actions that count to create a bright future for herself and the many voices she represents.
World leaders have produced a worthy successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with their endorsement of the SDGs in New York. I congratulate all those involved in creating this ambitious agenda, and welcome the strong commitment to health under goal three to ‘ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all’ and the target to end AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria by 2030.
The MDGs unified the world’s focus in the fight for health for all, leading to an unprecedented scale up of resources, political will, and action. Since the MDGs were agreed in 2000, new HIV infections fell by approximately 40 per cent from 3.5 million to 2 million annual cases. Tuberculosis prevention, diagnosis and treatment saved an estimated 37 million lives from 2000 to 2013 and led to a drop of 45% in TB mortality. Thanks to the expansion of anti-malaria interventions, over 6.2 million malaria deaths have been averted.
Despite these huge achievements, communicable diseases still remain the leading cause of death in low-income countries. We still have unfinished business so we must continue to prioritize support for the most fragile countries and health systems, where our investments are having a huge impact.
The SDGs present an ambitious and inclusive health agenda that will only be achieved by a united movement committed to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for all. The SDGs will only be meaningful if they are taken out of New York and into communities. They must become a tool to empower every citizen to hold their governments accountable for their promise to Leave No One Behind.
There are still many left behind in districts, countries and regions that are suffering and dying because of these diseases. TB alone kills more than 4000 people a day. We can not afford to fall back on our achievements and risk a reversal of the gains we’ve made.
When we speak about ending AIDS, TB and Malaria, this is not rhetoric. This is a goal we can and will achieve. Our success will depend on making Leave No One Behind the foundation of everything we do and not just another catch phrase. Today marks the midpoint in the race started by the MDGs. We have no time to lose.
Stop TB Partnership