Global TB Caucus Country Spotlight: Ukraine
Ukraine is struggling with a tuberculosis (TB) epidemic.
Ukraine has growing rates of drug-resistant and extensively drug resistant strains of TB -types of TB that are particularly dangerous and difficult to cure, with treatment being long, painful and expensive. The country is also battling with a growing number of HIV infections. Those with HIV are over 20 times more likely to develop TB.
There is a clear need for Ukraine to step up quickly on these epidemics to save many lives lost unnecessarily to treatable and, in most cases, curable illnesses. And to stop the advance of drug-resistance - a threat to the whole European region.
The TB epidemic re-emerged in Ukraine in 1995, and in recent years conflict has shaken the country. During this challenging time, making progress in areas such as healthcare has not been straightforward, despite the fact that there are many committed people and innovative organisations and movements working hard to try and turn the tide on epidemics such as TB.
One such recent initiative launched to help speed up the response and raise the political profile of the disease is the Ukrainian Parliamentary Platform on Tuberculosis, led by Member of Parliament Mr Serhiy Kiral, and supported by the Alliance for Public Health Ukraine.
In 2016, a visit to Kiev from Baroness Suttie, a member of the UK House of Lords resulted in Ukraine raising the issue of drug-resistant TB in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Mr Kiral was then nominated to lead a report initiated to explore the problem of drug-resistant TB across Europe. As he learned more about the disease, Mr Kiral decided he needed to support his own countries’ efforts.
The Parliamentary Platform on Tuberculosis was launched on the 3rd October 2017. Since then, Ukraine has made some encouraging steps forward and cultivated the political drive to tackle TB, both at home and through regional and global efforts. Baroness Suttie has continued to be involved in supporting action on TB in Ukraine, through subsequent visits to Kiev and Odessa.
Although the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and Centre for Disease Control hold responsibility for the national strategy to end TB, there are many other organisations and movements taking on the epidemic. The Parliamentary Platform works in a collaborative way with these different groups and organisations to make sure everyone’s voice is heard in developing an improved Ukrainian strategy. Mr Kiral works regularly with civil society organisations and people who have been affected by TB to ensure that there is a comprehensive input into the discussions held at the political level.
The Platform has helped drive forward positive reforms to the country health system - within which, reform of the TB response is critical. The reforms now just need support from the governments’ Executive branch to come into effect. The Platform has also gained the support of the Parliamentary Healthcare Committee in pushing forward Ukraine’s involvement in an upcoming United Nations meeting of Heads of State in New York in September, as well as organising more TB hearings in the Verkhovna Rada in Kiev later this year, and inputting into a new national TB strategy.
These efforts certainly point toward some upcoming positive changes for people who experience TB in Ukraine, and the partnership between politicians and affected communities is certainly raising interest. We look forward to seeing this momentum drive forward the fight to tackle TB in Ukraine.
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