Sierra Leone launches National Caucus to accelerate progress to end TB
TB is a consistently neglected, chronically underfunded disease with a need for strong political accountability and global coordination. Two years ago, the United Nations General Assembly met to discuss tuberculosis for the first time in history. The UN High Level Meeting on TB (UN HLM TB) gathered Heads of State and Government, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Health and Social Development, civil society, TB survivors, and academia. Despite an ambitious Political Declaration endorsed by Heads of States to transform the TB response, save millions of lives and put the world on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target to end TB by 2030, countries are still far from reaching the set targets.
Since the UN HLM, the TB community has recorded meaningful progress in the fight, but despite this progress the recent WHO 2020 Global TB Report, estimates that in 2019 alone, 23,000 people fell ill from TB in Sierra Leone including 3,000 with HIV. 2400 people died from TB including 680 with HIV-TB. Of the $9 million required for TB Response in the country, 74% came from international funding sources and 5% from domestic resources, leaving a significant gap of 21%.
MPs are uniquely positioned to influence funding, policies and accountability at national, regional, and global levels in the TB response to change this narrative. To accelerate the response in Sierra Leone and get the country back on track to reach UN HLM on TB targets, The Global TB Caucus together with the Director of the Civil Society Movement Against Tuberculosis Sierra Leone (CISMAT-SL) Paul Bangura, supported the recent formation of the Sierra Leone TB Caucus. The National Caucus will galvanise much needed political momentum to fight TB in Sierra Leone and contribute to reaching the goal to end TB by 2030. Parliamentarians of the Caucus play a key role in bringing the shortfalls in achieving the commitments to the attention of the government and the Minister of Health.
Out of 24 of the 48 TB high-burden (HB) countries listed by WHO, 19 (80%) have members of the Caucus and 11 (46%) that have National Caucuses. Increased global, regional and national political will mobilised by parliamentarians such as the members of The Global TB Caucus and supported by civil society, donors and other relevant stakeholders has led to increased domestic resources for TB over the past year.
Seven High Burden countries are on track to achieve the TB SDGs for 2030: Kenya, Lesotho, Myanmar, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The Caucus has members in 6 of these countries, and in our biannual analysis of member activities, we note that these MPs have consistently taken meaningful and impactful political actions.
Twenty-six countries recently increased their Global Fund pledge from the previous cycle, representing USD 12.1 billion. The Global TB Caucus, with members in 22 of the 26 countries (84%), and have been the political driving force of the increase of these pledges. 22 countries pledged for the first time, adding USD 226.82 million to the total commitment - proof that parliamentary engagement in the fight against TB is key to the response.
The Sierra Leone TB Caucus will add a valuable voice, influence and platform to accelerate progress towards ending TB in Sierra Leone, through laws and policies that protect the rights of TB affected communities as well as ensuring increased domestic funding for TB and mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on the TB response.
The Sierra Leone TB Caucus is a much welcome addition to the Africa TB Caucus led by Hon Dahiru (Nigeria), Hon Mule (Kenya), Hon Kalila (Zambia), Hon Dienda (Namibia), and Hon Ngayap (Cameroon, Anglo/Franco Co-Chair).