Americas TB Caucus highlights the role of the G20 in ending TB
Buenos Aires, Argentina - Between February 19 and 20, the Americas TB Caucus members met with different Argentinian authorities to discuss tuberculosis (TB) in the national, regional and international agendas. Argentina holds the presidency for the G20 in 2018.
The delegation, which included the Americas TB Caucus co-chairs Luz Salgado, congresswoman from Peru, and Luis Gallo, member of parliament from Uruguay, and Gisela Scaglia, member of parliament from Argentina, met with representatives from the Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs, national parliamentarians and representatives of society civil, and representatives from both Peruvian and Uruguayan Embassies.
On the first day of the visit, the delegation met with civil society representatives from the C20, the civil society affinity groups for the G20. Together, they discussed the importance of maintaining TB within the AMR health working group agenda, since the disease was recognized as "the cornerstone of antimicrobial resistance". Poder Ciudadano, NGO that leads the C20 discussions, committed to highlighting TB within the Health Working Group and beyond.
Maria Emilia Berazategui, sherpa of the C20 stated "We want to make sure that what we do here will not be part of short-term discussions. We want to continue the great work started by Germany and make sure that the priorities are kept for the next presidencies. In this sense, health will remain a priority for us. The AMR seems to be the platform to include most of the discussions and TB will be one of the highlights."
The delegation also met with representatives from the Peruvian Embassy, Mr. Stephan Mutze, in business focal point and Councilor Giovanna Gómez. Considering the importance of Peru for the discussions on drug-resistant tuberculosis, the meeting with the embassy aimed to focus efforts in mobilizing towards the United Nations High Level Meeting (HLM) on TB. "An important commitment taken by the embassy was to send an official statement to the Peruvian permanent mission to the United Nations, requesting to prioritize TB in light of the HLM. This is part of a set of actions that we are taking locally and internationally towards ending TB," Luz Salgado said.
The first day of the visit ended with a meeting with Carmen Polledo, MP and chair of the Health Committee from the Deputies` Chamber of Argentina. During the encounter, she committed to supporting the reconduction of the National TB Caucus, launched in 2016, but that needs to be re-established since the recent congress elections. Polledo also committed to taking the issue to the Ministry of Health for his support on a collaborative agenda, between the legislative and the executive. Polledo also committed to encouraging her fellow parliamentarians to hold a public hearing on TB in the upcoming months in order to bring the necessary visibility to the disease.
On the second day of the visit, the Americas TB Caucus delegation met with Dr. Hugo Gramajo from the Biomolecular Institute of Rosario, with authorities from both Health and Foreign Affairs Ministries, and with more national parliamentarians.
"Because TB is the deadliest infectious disease in the world, it represents a very serious challenge. That is why we need to work on several fronts, uniting political will with technical development," explained MP Gisela Scaglia, at the beginning of the meeting with Dr Hugo Gramajo. The director of the Biomolecular Institute of Rosario presented the work they are developing to find new compounds for an effective TB drug. During the meeting, the group also highlighted the need for investments to improve laboratory conditions in the country.
It has been proved that, in order to tackle TB, we need to center efforts also in the economic aspects, as it has been discussed among the G20. In this sense, the Americas TB Caucus representatives met with authorities from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dealing with the G20 discussions. "Our job as parliamentarians is also to highlight the enormous human and economic costs that the disease represents. That is precisely why we need to talk about TB within the G20, because, if we keep the current rate of progress until 2030, we will lose almost 12 million people and the economic impact can reach 675 million dollars only in the G20 countries."concludes Gallo, MP from Uruguay.
At the meeting, the MPs presented the Price of a Pandemic report, which portrays the economic and human impacts that TB was responsible for between the years 2000 and 2015 (period of the Millennium Development Goals), and what it will represent from now to 2030 (period of the Sustainable Development Goals). The G20 countries play a key role to change the scenario, stepping up in the response to develop faster and more efficient drugs, vaccines and diagnostics.
During the meeting, Minister Mauricio Alice, G20 sous sherpa, ratified Argentina's commitment to recognize TB as a key issue in the AMR discussions. "It is a pleasure to welcome the Americas TB Caucus delegation for the second time, and to meet with committed leadership on public health. We appreciate the efforts on highlighting TB in the G20 AMR agenda and we commit to working with the other 19 countries to reach an agreement on how we can step up to the global response."
The commitment to tackle TB was also shared by the Ministry of Health. Dr. Mario Kaler, Secretary for Health Promotion, Prevention and Risk Control, stressed that TB is in the center of the communicable diseases discussions at the national level, and that the Ministry looks forward to working with the legislative on a national agenda. Dr. Analía López, chief of cabinet for the Ministry of Health and the person responsible for leading the G20 health discussions, also highlighted that Argentina is committed to continuing the work initiated by Germany on AMR, and highlighting TB.
The delegation also met with Ambassador Héctor Lescano and Minister Patricia Pacheco from the Uruguayan Embassy in Buenos Aires. Uruguay plays a leadership role on TB advocacy in the Americas and throughout their network of embassies, Mr. Lescano committed to presenting the importance of the HLM in their next meeting of Ambassadors of the Americas.
At the end of the day, the MPs met with the President of the International Relations Committee from the Deputies' Chamber, Cornelia Schmidt Liermann MP, and with the Director General of International Relations, Dr. Juan Cincunegui. Cornelia committed to being part of the TB advocacy movement within the G20, and to hold the Ministry of Foreign Affairs accountable for the commitments made. She also ensured the inclusion of TB within the AMR discussion of the P20, another affinity group of the G20.
In addition, they stressed that Argentina will hold next year`s Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, which presents yet another opportunity for Argentina to take the lead on TB discussion in the different legislative foras.
Lastly, the delegation met with Senator Mario Fiad, and discussed how to strengthen the national agenda through a bicameral work.