Much needed leadership: Indonesia sets the tone for the end TB movement
Updated: Apr 27
Holding the presidency of the G20 in 2022, Indonesia held the first G20 Health Working Group (HWG) meeting in late March. The country currently holds the third highest burden of TB in the world. To highlight and reaffirm its commitment to fighting tuberculosis, the Indonesian Ministry of Health and partners organised, for the first time, an official side event on TB, from the 29th to 30th of March, 2022. With a hybrid format, the event counted on the participation of Health Working Group members from the G20 countries, as well as representatives from the broader TB community. The meeting had two primary aims:
First, to present the necessity of mobilising additional resources and financing for TB response, through multilateral, bilateral, and domestic means.
Second, to propose concrete action to be taken by G20 countries, through the drafting of a Call-to-Action document; outlining pre-determined milestones of efforts to increase G20 countries’ investments towards TB response.
This is a significant step towards recouping TB response in the wake of COVID-19’s effects on collective effort, and reestablishing the importance of our united response to pandemics: equal priority to benefit all.. As a high TB burden country, their vantage point is vital in conversations in global health and sets the standard for what leadership should be. As Indonesia knows firsthand the effects TB can have on a population, their experience provides strong insight into how best to continue the fight against TB, as well as enabling them to better articulate what is needed, and what responses will benefit the world’s general populace.
As this side event took place over two days, the salient points have been condensed into a general summary, as a starting point regarding common threads that were tackled during the event.
The first common element was a united desire to strengthen efforts in achieving the end TB targets by 2030, despite significant disruptions related to COVID-19. It was emphasised that TB mortality is increasing for the first time in 20 years: thus, additional (and efficient) investments in TB response and research are a requirement to better the systems and infrastructure across the board. Following this, speakers highlighted the importance of strong political commitments: how they accelerated development, deployment, and implementation of solutions during the COVID-19 response, and how the same level of collaboration is needed to overcome TB. It is important to remember that these responses should be people-centred, abolish any stigma or prejudice, and address the needs of communities for quality services that are human-rights based and built upon principles of gender equity.
The Third Panel Session (‘Development of Airborne Infection Defence Approach’) emphasised the need to further strengthen TB response. By building on preexisting TB platforms, a foundation is better established within pandemic preparedness systems: particularly against airborne pandemics. This measure is coherent to future airborne pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. Speakers also mentioned the issue of inequality of access to medicines and technology in global south countries.
During his speech, Lord Herbert of South Downs, the Global TB Caucus Global Co-chair, addressed some important points as an MP. The first point that bears mentioning is connected to the relationship between TB and COVID-19: to focus on TB, not because the world’s attention needs to be diverted away from COVID, but rather because these are things with intertwined solutions that should be dealt with together. The united responses to COVID are also connected to things such as HIV, AIDS, TB, and Malaria. There are things to be done across the board.
Herbert stressed that MPs are not experts on TB but many of those present at the meeting are, and that much can be done to push efforts and support experts. Working together better grants the ability to solve current issues. He also emphasised that regardless of COVID, the response to meet the UN High Level Meeting 2018 goals to end TB would still be off-track. All of these things are interconnected: preparation for future pandemics will tackle current diseases and existing pandemics are part of the solution.
He also focused on the need to open up profitable new partnerships with businesses (in order to incentivize and encourage a more thorough and unified TB response) such as Ending Workplace TB. To this end, parliamentarians need to prepare to work; not only within their parliaments, but across parliaments, and multilaterally with their partners. “In the end, our ability to end TB around the world is dependent on resources, [...] and in turn those resources are a reflection of political will, and the level of political commitment that is necessary to beat the disease. While I think the role of parliamentarians is important, [...] I think that we are stronger when we work together.”
Photo credits to Jon Tyson.