Action is needed by world leaders to end TB

On the opening day of the 49th Union World Conference on Lung Health, The Union and the TB community have called for world leaders to step forward in the fight to end tuberculosis (TB).

Under the conference theme of Declaring Our Rights: Social and Political Solutions, José Luis Castro highlighted the need for a human-centred approach to ending TB following the recent United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB, saying: “Mobilising society and political leaders against TB is just as important as having the doctors and nurses we need to deliver vaccines and medicines.”

At the first ever High-Level Meeting on TB, leaders from across the world pledged to reach specific, measurable milestones toward ending TB by 2023, through the first UN political declaration on the fight against TB.

José added: “People with TB have the right to access treatment and care. Those rights cannot just exist on the paper a declaration is written on.

“As the world’s oldest tuberculosis organisation, we are calling on presidents and prime ministers to keep their promises.”

This plea was backed by Kitty van Weezenbeek, Executive Director of KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, local hosts of the 49th Union World Conference on Lung Health, who added: “We need political commitment, we need the human resources and we need civil society engagement to end this epidemic.”

A key focus for the Union World Conference is the rights of children, addressed today by Paul Jensen, Policy and Strategy Director at The Union, speaking about child TB. He said: “Children haven’t really registered on the global health agenda. You just see a void of where the attention on children who have TB or have been exposed to TB should be.

“A million children under the age of 15 every year become sick with TB, about a quarter of a million die. 90 percent of those children who die from TB no one diagnosed, no one treated them.

“There’s no excuse for missing these kids. There’s no mystery here. This is a silent slaughter.”

Blessi Kumar, CEO of Global Coalition of TB Activists, reinforced this message: “650 children die from TB every day, most of them before they reach their fifth birthday. I think in 2018 this is something that I find extremely difficult to understand.

“These are the numbers of the disease burden, but what cannot be seen is the human suffering.

“For every success story, there are thousands who didn’t make it. It is for them that we need to talk about TB in children. We owe it to every life that was lost that could have been saved. We need to ensure that children do not get TB. It can be prevented.”

You can watch the official opening press conference on the 49th Union World Conference website.

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