Parliamentarians commit to end TB in Zimbabwe at launch of National TB Caucus

Members of Parliament (MPs) from 27 provinces and representing different political parties met in Harare on 13 July to launch the National TB Caucus and commit to end tuberculosis (TB) in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is ranked among the 30 high-burden countries for TB, multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and TB-HIV co-infection, and TB is a leading cause of death in the country. Increased political will from within the country itself – and worldwide – can focus efforts where help is most needed and push for better distribution of funding and increased attention on TB.

Talks from the event highlighted the importance of collaboration – across party lines, between government and non-profit organisations, and among public health institutions and private clinics.

Speaker of Parliament and guest of honour at the event, Honourable Advocate Jacob Mudenda expressed his gratitude to the MPs for setting aside their political differences to push for improved health for Zimbabwe and emphasised the need to focus on prevention.

He challenged the legislators to address the funding gaps in the national TB programmes by lobbying for increased healthcare budgets; to fight poverty which hinders treatment adherence; and to challenge the laws that make prisons a breeding ground for TB transmission. He thanked The Union for working with legislators to support the TB programme and encouraged the development sector to continue to collaborate with government to end TB and stigma.

The Minister of Health and Child Care Dr David Parirenyatwa highlighted the danger of TB-HIV co-infection and the need to combine efforts against the two diseases into one united front. He urged MPs to push for adequate financing to improve the health system through an increased healthcare workforce, a stable supply of medicines and improved infrastructure and equipment in health facilities.

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care and member of the Global TB Caucus Dr Ruth Labode called on MPs to “commit to raise awareness about TB, advocate for increased budget for TB prevention and control, influence and engage decision makers, address neglected and at-risk populations such as slum dwellers, the poor, prisoners and mining communities and remove fear and stigma.”

The event, which was attended by the Minister of Health and Child Care, his Permanent Secretary, Directors of the AIDS and TB Units, The Union, the World Health Organization (WHO) and members of the media, culminated with the 27 MPs signing the call to action and committing to cross-party collaboration to end TB in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe TB Caucus was launched just before African leaders – including representatives from Zimbabwe – united in Durban, South Africa for the African TB Caucus, which was held during TB2016, preceding the International AIDS Conference, AIDS2016.

The Zimbabwe TB Caucus is supported by The Union Zimbabwe Office and the WHO through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Challenge TB programme.