Warm reception in Jordan for UN Special Envoy and Luis Figo

30 April 2010 Amman, Jordan - Dr Jorge Sampaio, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Stop TB and football icon Luis Figo, Goodwill Ambassador against Tuberculosis, wrapped up their visit to Jordan today with a press conference.

President Sampaio congratulated Jordan on its significant progress on TB and MDR-TB while emphasizing that tuberculosis is a big public health and development concern in many Muslim countries. "We have to move progressively on providing care for affected people, and this can only be done when everyone is involved, political commitment is sustained and partnership strengthened. Only then can we achieve the real Millennium Development Goal and save human lives," he said.

Figo added his own vote of confidence. "I was amazed to see the energy of young boys and girls, the spirit of cooperation and commitment of the Government and willingness of society to be part of a public health campaign against Tuberculosis" he said. Figo said he hoped his visit would send a message to young people in all Muslim countries to come forward and use their immense potential in the fight against tuberculosis.

Dr Hussein A. Gezairy, Regional Director WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean commented that TB is now declining in the Region, but at too slow a pace. "We have made significant progress in the Region, with more than 2.3 million tuberculosis patients cured since 2000 through the DOTS strategy, but millions more infections have been stopped. We need to stop tuberculosis not only in the countries of this Eastern Mediterranean Region, but also in all Muslim countries in the world. We need to secure our children a world free from tuberculosis," he said.

Earlier that day Figo visited the SoS Children's Village, where children performed traditional dances and Figo read aloud from Luis Figo and the World Tuberculosis Cup, a comic book in which he is featured as the main character. Figo and Dr Sampaio also visited the Alnoor Sanatorium, which is run by an NGO with the help of the Jordanian government and receives patients for MDR-TB treatment from Jordan and neighbouring countries including Iraq, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. They were accompanied by officials from the National Tuberculosis Control Programme, WHO and Stop Tuberculosis Ambassador Ms Rania Ismail. Dr Sampaio and Figo spoke with people in TB care and encouraged them to continue treatment.

Other highlights of the day included an awards ceremony at a charity Stop Tuberculosis show organized by the Amman Riding Club and a visit by Figo to the the Petra Stadium at Amman's Sports City. There he met with members of the national football team of Jordan and the youth team and watched a match between a Stop TB team and a rival team. Figo praised the players for their team spirit. "This is what we need to use in our fight against tuberculosis and beat it with wonderful team players like you all,"he said.

The evening before Dr Sampaio and Figo attended a dinner hosted by HRH Prince Ali Ben Hussein. Dr Gezairy, Ms Ismail and officials from the National Tuberculosis Control Programme of Jordan, the Jordan Football Association and WHO were on hand to welcome them.