Pakistan launches a National TB Caucus
Pakistan’s first Parliamentary Caucus for Tuberculosis was launched on Tuesday the 9th June 2020 during a historic meeting held in Islamabad with in-person and virtual participation from around the world. The meeting was hosted jointly by the DOPASI Foundation and Stop TB Pakistan in collaboration with the NTP Pakistan and with the support of the Stop TB Partnership. It brought together Members of both the Pakistani Senate and National Assembly as well as Members of a Provincial Assembly, and representatives from the National TB Programme, WHO HQ, EMRO and CO, Stop TB Partnership, USAID and the Global TB Caucus.
The Honorable Dr Nausheen Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, as Head of the newly launched Caucus delivered the keynote address calling upon her fellow parliamentarians to work together, across party and provincial lines, to reinforce and strengthen the TB response in Pakistan. She pointed out the devastating impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on TB services, highlighting there was almost an 80% decline in case notifications since the start of the pandemic and elaborated on the grave consequences that this can have for the program. In her address she also laid out the overall structure of the Pakistan TB Caucus and provided summary updates on the long and short term plans. Remarks were also made by the other Members of Parliament, including Senator Dr. Mehar Taj Roghani, MNAs Dr. Nisar Ahmad Cheema, Dr. Shazia Soomro, Dr. Samina Matloob, Prof. Dr. Shahnaz Baloch, Dr. Seemi Bukhari, Dr. Sumaira Shams, and Sindh MPAs Dr. Seema Zia and Dr. Mukesh Kumar Chawla.
The meeting was opened by Dr Syed Karam Shah, Senior Advisor, Stop TB Pakistan and TB Adviser to the Special Adviser to the Prime Minister (Health), who outlined the overall agenda for the meeting while highlighting the significance and relevance of the work envisaged for the Parliamentarians in Pakistan. Dr Tereza Kasaeva Head of GTB WHO and Dr Lucica Ditiu ED STP spoke about the global TB situation and the progress that the world has made against this terrible disease. Both speakers strongly highlighted the modeling reports conducted by the WHO and Stop TB Partnership, which suggest that unless immediate and sustainable action is taken, the world is at risk of losing almost 5 to 8 years of progress against TB. Cheri Vincent, Chief of USAID’s TB Division, in her remarks pointed out the significance of parliamentary engagement and brought the donor perspective to the discussion. Tushar Nair, Asia Pacific Regional Manager for Global TB Caucus, Secretariat spoke about the role of elected representatives in the global fight against TB, calling attention to the various activities and interventions headed by Parliamentarians around the world.
At the end of the event, all members of the caucus led by Dr. Nausheen Hamid affixed their signatures on the Declaration on the formation of the End TB Parliamentary Caucus in Pakistan and reiterated their commitment to work consistently towards achieving the goals of ending this deadly disease, creating awareness to the issue and working together for developing legislation for issues impeding TB care services in Pakistan, in addition to personal efforts in their own constituencies.