Heads of EECA national caucuses gather online to address COVID-19 and TB
On April 7th 2020, parliamentarians from Eastern Europe and Central Asia gathered online to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on tuberculosis services. They were joined by several specialists from WHO and PAS Center. This call was an opportunity for all to share their national experience as well as their interrogations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
The online meeting started with WHO representatives, Mr. Uldis and Mr Askar Edilbaev (WHO for Europe), who first provided basic information and statistics about the current situation, and its impact on people affected by TB. They noted for example, the need to focus on providing ambulatory treatment for TB patients, using modern technologies, such as video surveillance. They emphasized the fact that people affected by TB are at high risk to contract Covid-19 and to present severe complications of the disease. It was also noted that it is imperative to prevent any disruptions in the access to TB diagnostics, treatment and care. A multisectoral approach to treat infectious diseases is essential in EECA region countries, as people with HIV / AIDS or Hepatitis C are also at high risk to develop Covid-19.
Ms. Stella, Director of the Center for Health Policy and Studies (PAS Center) informed MPs about the goals and current tasks of the TB-REP regional project for EECA countries. She also took this opportunity to present a tool of emergency planning to operate health systems and ensure the continuity of TB and HIV services in case of unforeseen circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find this plan here: http://pas.md/en/PAS/Studies/Details/160
Representatives of the parliaments of Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Ukraine shared their national experience regarding the continuity of TB services as well as actions taken by their governments to deal with the current global health crisis.
Given the very different realities in the region, participants exposed various approaches to protect the rights of people affected by TB. In particular, Mr. Jamshed, Co-Chair of the Global TB Caucus in the EECA region, shared the experience of Tajikistan, where so far, according to official WHO data, not a single case of COVID-19 infection has been identified. Ms. Lada Bulakh, Co-Chair of the Global Caucus in the EECA Region, focused on the need to develop the widest possible action plan with concrete steps for parliamentarians to follow.
MPs concluded this meeting unanimously agreeing that it is essential to protect people affected by TB, even more today, and to ensure that TB services won't be disturbed or disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. They also insisted on the prevention of any cut on national TB budgets. They will keep on gathering online through the global crisis to monitor the situation and take action when necessary.