Tuberculosis kills more people than HIV/AIDS and malaria. In 2016, the disease claimed the lives of 1.7 million people worldwide, over 25% of these deaths occurred in Africa. So how can the burden of this disease be addressed in Africa? Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, NEPAD Agency CEO has pointed out the urgent need to increase domestic resources to fund interventions to end TB on the continent. Dr Mayaki was speaking at the Africa side event on the margins of the first ever United Nations High Level Meeting on TB (UNHLMTB) in New York, USA on 25th September 2018.
“The fight to end tuberculosis must be looked at in the broader context of inequality and our efforts must be repositioned in this perspective. Addressing the inequality gap will help to advance the fight to eliminate TB in Africa”, Dr Mayaki said.
The Africa side event under the theme ”United to end tuberculosis in Africa: a continental response” was aimed at galvanizing commitment by leaders at the highest level of government, private sector and civil society on innovative regional collaboration towards ending the burden of TB. African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, H.E. Amira El Fadil indicated that political will to end TB in Africa exists as evidenced by the decision by Afrian Union (AU) Member States to adopt the Common Africa Position (CAP) on ending tuberculosis. She further echoed the words of Dr Mayaki on the need to increase domestic resources for sustainability purposes.
“We have to simultaneously address the challenges of TB by embracing both collective and individual country efforts as both are critical in ending the disease”, the Commissioner said.
H.E. Amira El Fadil further reminded participants that despite positive progress, Africa still struggles with issues of affordability and accessibility of medicines, especially among vulnerable communities. She stated that the proposed establishment of the African Medicines Agency (AMA) will be very useful in promoting local production of medicines as well as address prevalence of Substandard and Falsified medical products on the continent. The Commissioner said that TB is related to poverty, hence we have to end poverty as this will add value to the fight against TB in Africa. The fight against tuberculosis will be won and how to win this fight is by addressing the disease from all possible vantage points.
She further brought attention to the existence of the Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and that countries and development partners must make use of this strategic institution as it is operational and currently responding to various disease challenges on the continent. If we work collaboratively as a continent, we should be able to have an Africa free of TB.
Speaking during the event, Hon. Minister of Health of Zambia, Dr Chitalu Chilufya said that calls to end the burden of TB in Africa must be matched with appropriate investment in strengthening health systems. He further said that there are a lot of missing TB cases in most African countries that we don’t even know about. Hence, we cannot under-estimate the urgency of escalating preventative measures, increasing awareness and sensitization campaigns in the most vulnerable hard to reach areas, as well as investment in the right infrastructure to increase coverage so that we can strengthen TB screening, diagnosis and successful treatment. It is time to go beyond rhetoric to invest in appropriate public health interventions that will bring us a lot of gains in the fight to eliminate the burden of TB in Africa.
“Health is an investment we need to make now to yield results later”, the Hon. Minister said.
During the event, testimonies regarding TB control in Africa were heard from two Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) TB survivors, Phumeza Tisile and Dalene von Delft. They spoke of their troubles having to deal with MDR TB and the treatment they underwent which led to hearing loss for Phumeza who now uses hearing aid. The two testimonies are a reflection on how inequality, and poverty are at the centre of the quality of TB treatment and care one is able to receive. The gaps in TB screening, diagnosis and treatment have to be addressed so that patients receive the best care and access the most appropriate medication regardless of their social and economic status.
The Africa side event was moderated by global musical icon and NEPAD Agency Goodwill Ambassador for tuberculosis and nutrition, Yvonne Chaka Chaka. She stated that now is the time to walk the talk on the fight to end TB in Africa. She moderated two sessions and plenary discussions focussing on the importance of multi-country collaboration on the fight against TB in Africa and the value in establishing strategic partnerships, financing and accountability.
Yvonne Chaka Chaka closed the Africa side event in style with a beautiful rendition of her song whose words strike a nerve in every sphere of life and reflect on the values of Ubuntu.
“What have you done today to make you feel proud, it’s never too late to try…
What have you done today to make you feel proud...?”
The Africa side event was attended by over 200 high level participants from public to private sector and civil society organizations. The event was organized by NEPAD Agency, African Union Commission (AUC), World Bank (WB), Global Fund (GF), World Health Organization (WHO), Stop TB Partnership and the Minerals Council of South Africa.