Global TB Caucus
"How working with MPs increased our impact" Elchin Mukhtarli, Chairman of TB Azerbaijan Coalition
Updated: Jul 15, 2019
Azerbaijan is a country of 10 million people. In 2017, 7,129 TB cases were diagnosed, which represents an incidence rate of 39.8 cases per 100,000 people. Among these new cases, 12% were drug-resistant TB and this percentage is still increasing today.
The Azerbaijan TB Coalition collaborated successfully with Members of Parliament (MPs) in response to the TB threat in the country. At first, we thought MPs would not be completely open with us, which is an old habit from the Soviet Union, but we quickly found out they were very collaborative and willing to help us. MPs are well aware of the TB problem, and all admitted that it is a very serious health issue for the country.
Working with parliamentarians has been extremely beneficial to Civil Society in Azerbaijan and our close partnership helped us to overcome many barriers and bureaucratic obstacles during our interventions. We could, for example, easily obtain permission from head of executive power to organize our advocacy work or also set up large public awareness campaigns. We started having access to TV Channels and managed to broadcast social and educational videos on TB. We can now show content on TV free of charge. We ended up spending less funds for a more effective work and a meaningful outcome.
Why is that? What tools do parliamentarians have that Civil Society doesn’t? Mainly it is because they have authority in the administrative area they were elected and also because, legally, MPs have the right to be received by all officials in the government bodies without any delay, which simplifies any action for them and for us.
Recently, Parliamentarians of Azerbaijan held a Public Hearing on drug-resistant TB, with the participation of Civil Society. Parliamentarians and civil society representatives had very interactive discussions where MPs underlined the significant role and meaningful engagement of CSOs in the fight against TB. During this event we were able to insist on the necessity to amend the law on TB, outdated since 2000. But also the need to break the stigma about TB patients and simplify their procedures to get disability status. We also talked about the problem of external donors leaving the country and the very low National TB Program Health staff salaries. At the end of the meeting we were left with the mission to prepare a document exposing barriers, problems and obstacles that hamper the effectiveness of the TB response.
This new partnership with MPs helped us giving an effective and meaningful response to the TB threat in Azerbaijan and we hope to keep on improving this collaboration in order to amend our law and end TB.
Chairman of TB Azerbaijan Coalition