The Union brings together UN missions to urge critical action on TB

The Union and partner organisations brought 21 United Nations (UN) country missions together with tuberculosis (TB) experts and TB organisation representatives at a briefing in Geneva on 19 June, in preparation for the UN High-Level Meeting (HLM) on TB later this year. The event, titled ‘The Vital Role of TB Research and TB Elimination’, highlighted the urgent need for increased TB research to develop and disseminate effective interventions and create more efficient TB programmes.

As UN countries negotiate the language of the first-ever UN political declaration on TB, The Union and partners urged mission representatives to ensure concrete commitments to TB and TB research – and funding for that research – be included. This declaration will establish a global political framework for TB and ensure commitment to its end, but only if the declaration includes strong, clear targets and political buy-in.

José Luis Castro, Executive Director of The Union, called for specific funding targets, clear goals for the development of new tools and an accountability mechanism to measure progress towards achieving those commitments.

“If we do not chart a new path for TB, then we are going to find ourselves facing an international humanitarian disaster caused by the spread of drug-resistant TB, which no country will possibly be able to ignore, and which will cost far more in both money and human lives than what we’re asking for member states to invest right now while the opportunity exists”, said José Luis Castro.

Dr Alexey Novozhilov, Senior Health Attaché at the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the UN Office, and Nilo Ditz, Minister-Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the UN Office, presented statements from their countries and reiterated their support for the fight against TB. 

Also speaking at the event was Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Deputy Director General for Programmes, World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of the Global TB Programme, WHO, Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership and Stefan Radut, an multidrug-resistant TB survivor from Romania whose three years of treatment left him without half his left lung and significant hearing loss. 

“When the world decides we want to do something, we get it done”, said Dr Swaminathan, reminding the attendees of the progress made against Ebola. “We have demonstrated that it is possible to come together and confront the big health challenges. Yet we will never achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without tackling diseases like TB and malaria.”

A panel of non-governmental and intergovernmental organisation representatives presented the challenges with the current R&D system and discussed new innovations and opportunities for change and improvement.

“We celebrate the fact that we have two new drugs – but that’s not enough”, said Dr Paula Fujiwara, Scientific Director of The Union. “According to WHO data, we need at least 18 drugs. We need these tools and we need this pipeline of financing to end TB.”

The briefing was co-organised by The Union, Stop TB Partnership, Médecins sans Frontières Access Campaign, Treatment Action Group and South Centre.

Access The Union's HLM digital toolkit for ways to get involved.

Image shows, from left to right: Nilo Ditz, Minister-Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the UN Office; Janika Hauser, Parliamentary Advocacy Officer (TB), RESULTS UK; Dr Grania Brigden, Deputy Director, Department of TB and HIV, The Union; Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director, Global TB Programme, World Health Organization, Dr Els Torreele, Executive Director, MSF Access Campaign; José Luis Castro, Executive Director, The Union; Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director, Stop TB Partnership; Dr Paula I Fujiwara, Scientific Director, The Union; Dr Ole Olesen, Director of North-North Cooperation, EDCTP, Stefan Radut, former MDR-TB patient.