Title: Recover Together, Recover Stronger: Solidarity Becomes the Crucial Element in the G20 and G7 Pandemic Response
20 January 2022 — Almost three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to feel a sense of hopelessness. Essential health services have taken a severe hit, and are on the brink of collapse due to the impact. Among the plethora of issues to overcome, the number of lives lost, the alarming rise of cases and virus mutations shape an uncertain future.
With the world still staggering along the long road to recovery, there are crucial questions that must be asked:
How do you stop the next health crisis before it begins?
One answer: “We have learned that effectively addressing existing pandemics could well be the most effective way to ensure the world is ready when new threats emerge,” declares Lord Nick Herbert of South Downs, Member of the House of Lords and Co-Chair of the Global TB Caucus.
This goes beyond just overcoming COVID-19 pandemic, but also regaining lost ground in the fight against Tuberculosis (TB), which faces years of progress being reversed due to the decline in funding and resources. “Health services and political leadership are so focused on pandemic management, and the stigma and fear of COVID-19 discourages people from visiting TB services,” explains Hon. Warren Entsch, Federal Member of Australian Parliament and Co-Chair of the Asia Pacific TB Caucus. “All of these factors contribute to low levels of diagnosis and treatment…In the meantime, TB has quite frankly been running absolutely rampant. [It] is the deadliest infectious disease after COVID. We need to remember that.”
Putting an end to TB is something that cannot be achieved by one state alone but through the collaboration of many. The Global TB Caucus' “Recover Together, Recover Strong: Synergizing G20 and G7 Presidencies for A Stronger Response to Health Crises” bilateral event between Indonesia and Germany co-hosted by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria and the G20 Health and Development Partnership, highlighted this conversation by bringing together Ministers and Members of Parliament from Indonesia and Germany, which have assumed the G20 and G7 presidencies of the forums respectively, as well as representatives from the TB community in these countries and globally.
How can the G20 and G7 strengthen the fight against TB while COVID-19 continues to rage?
For Hon. Stephan Albani, Member of the German Parliament, the increased political and societal understanding of how important sustainable investment in global health has created valuable opportunities in the fight against TB, and the fight continues in this way:
“First, establish multilateral collaborations to ensure that member countries have a clear understanding of what is needed to end TB,” he outlines. “Second, integrate TB into the pandemic preparedness and response agenda... Increasing the funding is the third point. The Global Fund is a key instrument that can support our recovery efforts.”
One step forward was the agreement Germany and Indonesia signed with the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In this, €50 million of debt owed by Indonesia to Germany will be converted into investment in public health programs, including TB, supported by the Global Fund in Indonesia.
From the beginning, the G7 and G20 have been the critical supporters of the Global Fund, the largest multilateral grant funder for strengthening health systems and community health networks. Since it was established, it has disbursed over $50 billion dollars and saved 44 million lives.
Global Fund Executive Director Peter Sands explains, “Our investments to fight COVID-19 have resulted in new health innovations like testing for multiple infectious diseases at the same time, increased use of digital tools to help people stay on treatment, and multi-month dispensing of medicine. These innovations can and must be scaled up to continue to fight COVID-19 and to regain lost ground against TB and other infectious diseases.”
With the next replenishment of funding coming for the organization, the G7 and G20 continue to play an essential role in its success, and by extension, the next phase of the fight.
Where do we go from here?
The reality is that much of what was learned from COVID-19 can and should be promoted in the fight against it because the diseases bear similarities. “TB and COVID are both airborne diseases,” says Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership. “In most instances, there are two to three symptoms that are in TB that are in COVID. It’s not just the symptoms that are similar, but also the diagnosis. Testing for TB and COVID at the same time is extremely important.”
Ditiu adds that digitalization is also another important investment. “Why not push for having TB live data as we have for COVID? We are scared of COVID because every day, we can see [the case numbers of] any country in the world. For TB, we don’t have that.“
Beyond testing and monitoring, perhaps the biggest takeaway from the current pandemic is this:
"COVID-19 has taught the world that health is a global issue, and that no country is immune to health crises,” says Hon. Putih Sari, Member of the Indonesian House of Representatives. “Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the global community has committed massive amounts of funding to support control, containment, and relief efforts for COVID-19. We have also witnessed the fastest vaccine development in human history. This clearly demonstrates that rapid innovation and scale-up is possible when sufficient funds, and political will for collaboration are available.”
These must be given to health issues as a whole—and sustainably. Hatice Kücük, Executive Director for the G20 Health and Development Partnership, recounts that “Every time a disaster kicks in, we basically rally around and try to gather the funds… Finally, health is high on political agendas. I think we have the opportunity for the first time to not treat future disasters as emergency relief. We can actually plan and… look into how to sustainably manage and monitor future health challenges.”
Health must continue to be a high priority. But most importantly, it must be remembered that the endeavor relies on the consistent action of many — from Ministers and Members of Parliament shaping political will and scientists creating solutions, to media practitioners spreading awareness and private citizens participating in discussion.
Put simply: No one is safe until everyone is. The future of the TB response, and the state of our health, lies in everyone’s hands. The world can only recover together, recover stronger when it learns to collaborate.
About the Global TB Caucus
The Global TB Caucus is the world's largest independent parliamentary network with over 2,500 members from over 150 countries. The network covers 4 geographic regions: Europe and Central Asia, Africa, America, Asia-Pacific and 2 language regions - Francophone and Portuguese. Parliamentarians of the Caucus work both collectively and individually to accelerate progress in the fight against TB.
About the G20 Health and Development Partnership
The G20 Health & Development Partnership (G20HDP) is an advocacy organisation that aims to ensure that G20 countries coordinate their health innovation strategies to tackle the growing burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases globally, to promote the delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a focus on SDG 3 “health and well-being for all”.
About The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria
The Global Fund is a partnership designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics and ensure a healthier, safer, equitable future for all. As an international organization, the Global Fund mobilizes and invests more than US$4 billion a year to support programs run by local experts in more than 100 countries. In partnership with governments, civil society, technical agencies, the private sector and people affected by the diseases, the Global Fund is working to find solutions that have the most impact and take them to scale worldwide. In total, programs supported by the Global Fund have saved over 44 million lives over the past 20 years.
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