The Global TB Caucus co-hosts mobilizing and crucial G20/G7 multilateral meeting
Leveraging the TB experience to fight COVID-19 and strengthen health systems
7th June -- The Global TB Caucus, in partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, TB Alliance and the ACTION partnership, hosted a virtual delegation that brought together MPs, government officials, technical experts and CSOs to discuss the leveraging of TB experiences to fight COVID-19 and reinforce health systems.
The following key speakers exchanged views and insights around this devastating disease and concrete ways to ensure TB remained a focus within the G20 health discussion:
The Rt Hon The Lord Herbert of South Downs CBE PC, Global Co-Chair, Global TB Caucus
Simona Seravesi, Global Health, G20 Sherpa Office - Prime Minister's Office - Italy
Peter McDermott, Head, Global Health and C-19 Strategy Department - Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office - UK
Andreano Erwin, Director - Bureau of International Cooperation, Ministry of Health, Indonesia
Dr. Sudarsan Mandal, Deputy Director General - Tuberculosis, National TB Elimination Programme, India
Scott Boule, Senior Specialist, Parliamentary Affairs, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
Ana Maria Harkins, Director of External Affairs, TB Alliance
Francesca Belli, ACTION Partnership
Hon. Putih Sari, Member of House of Representatives, Republic of Indonesia
Hon. Lia Quartapelli, MP, Member of Parliament, Italy
G20 as a platform for global mobilisation around TB
The Hon Lord Herbert opened the meeting by welcoming participants and setting the agenda. He remarked on the timeliness of this meeting, emphasizing the potential that the G20 holds as a platform for global mobilisation around TB.
The opening panel of speakers consisted of government representatives from Italy, the UK, Indonesia and India. Each speaker discussed health priorities for their countries and outlined their vision for TB in their respective plans. Ms. Seravesi spoke of Italy’s health priorities for the current G20 presidency while Mr McDermott outlined the UK’s health priorities for the G7. Mr Erwin elaborated on Indonesia’s health priorities for the G20 next year and clearly outlined the place that TB had within this. Dr Mandal provided participants with an assessment of the impact that COVID has had on the TB response in India and restated his government’s commitment to ending the epidemic by 2025.
The second panel consisted of technical experts from the Global Fund and TB Alliance. Mr Boule from the Global Fund provided an overview of the crucial role that the agency has played in the global COVID response - both in helping address the current pandemic and safeguarding progress against TB, HIV and Malaria. Ms Harkins from TB Alliance focused her presentation on TB Research and Development, noting the need to ensure that we do not lose momentum around the decades-long research that has gone into TB. Crucially she also noted that as the only viable TB vaccine, the BCG, turns 100 years old this year, it has taken only 100 days to develop the COVID vaccines in use today.
Throughout this delegation, parliamentarians, government officials, and civil society leaders spoke from their different perspectives about the impact that COVID-19 has had on the TB epidemic, the lessons learnt from the pandemic regarding the necessity of sustainable health systems, and the practical steps needed to now be taken to ensure that TB funding, research, and investment is rapidly increased in order for us to have the best chance possible to meet the UN HLM TB targets.
Additionally, speakers from each country were unified on both the need for sustained support to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, the largest multilateral provider of grants for health, and the necessity of the G20 to invest in integrated health systems, and to leverage existing investments for the benefit of TB, COVID-19, and any future respiratory pandemics.
“We need to recover together, and recover stronger.”
The Hon. Putih Sari made this remark, conveying that this would also be the theme for Indonesia’s G20 presidency next year. She also pointed out that the up-coming Presidencies of Indonesia and India (the two highest TB burden countries in the world) were an incredible opportunity to ensure that TB received the high-level political attention it deserves. In addition to briefly discussing the impact of COVID on TB in Indonesia, she also shared insights on the tremendous multi-sectoral coordination that went into ensuring TB services were minimally disrupted. She concluded by calling for commitments towards fully financing the Global Fund and calling on her fellow parliamentary colleagues to use the tools at their disposal to craft legislation and exercising oversight and accountability that benefits their national TB responses.
The Hon. Quartapelle, in her remarks also noted that COVID has exposed the vulnerability of our health systems and called for the need for better health surveillance, research and stronger health systems. She pointed out the similarities between TB and COVID - in terms of their devastating human economic impacts. She also remarked on the fact that, with the onset of this pandemic, the G20 has played a significant role in the global health response and that this must necessarily also extend to TB. She closed the session by noting that Italy was pivotal in establishing funding mechanisms in the past and can play a similar role again now.
From the discussions throughout this event, the GTBC plans to develop a set of recommendations for the G20 to lead in the response to the pandemic from the perspective of strengthening health systems. Through engagement with the current G20 presidency in Italy, the current G7 presidency in the UK, and the future G20 presidencies in Indonesia and India, better coordination and communication of health priorities can be facilitated, which is vital for ensuring TB remains on the G20 agenda.