On Wednesday 15th July 2020, Global TB Caucus Parliamentarians participated in a webinar held by the Center for Global Development, co-organised with The Global Fund, titled ‘The Role of Parliamentarians in Strengthening COVID-19 Response & Recovery’.
Members of Parliament have an important role to play in tackling COVID-19 and assuring the health and wellbeing of their citizens, especially as they consider resource allocation decisions specific to their national, economic, and social contexts. Many of them are directly involved in the response, due to their leadership positions on the health committees or foreign aid committees and new COVID-19 task forces, where their experience in infectious respiratory diseases has been recognised. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted TB services, infrastructure, and resources globally, affecting vulnerable people disproportionately.
The event was moderated by Kalipso Chalkidou, Director of Global Health Policy and Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development and Madhukar Pai, Canada Research Chair of Epidemiology & Global Health, Director of Global Health, and Director of International TB Centre, McGill University.
Each Parliamentarian was prompted to share examples of a key achievement and persistent difficulty of COVID-19 response efforts in their country. This was then followed by an open discussion, with questions directed at each Parliamentarian centred on topics including the impact of COVID-19 on HIV, TB and Malaria, equitable vaccine access, civil society, and the private sector.
The panel was composed of:
Hon. Stephen Mutinda Mule, Member of Parliament of Kenya, Member of Health Committee and Parliamentary Human Rights Caucus, and Co-Chair of the African TB Caucus and Kenyan TB Caucus;
Hon. Abubakar Dahiru Sarki, Member of National Assembly of Nigeria, Chair of the AIDS/Tuberculosis and Malaria Control Committee, and Member of Ad-Hoc Committee on COVID-19 Response;
Hon. Vincent Pala, Member of Parliament of India and the Global Coalition Against TB;
Hon. Gisela Scaglia, Member of Parliament of Argentina and Co-Chair of the Americas TB Caucus.
Hon. Oral Aminovna Ataniyazova, Member of Parliament of Uzbekistan, Head of Uzbekistan's National TB Caucus and Founder of Perzent Karakalpak Center for Reproductive Health and Environment was unable to participate as planned, due to her family being affected by COVID-19.
During the event, Hon. Stephen Mutinda Mule discussed the significance of sufficient funding through local domestic resources and international donor funding, while also stressing the importance of the continuation of community-level treatment for other diseases such as HIV and TB which could be negatively impacted by the pandemic. A question to Hon. Vincent Pala raised the issue of TB treatment manufacturing being halted at the start of the lockdown in India, in which he explained that it was an issue of both supply and lockdown restrictions, and also highlighted that India is currently working with international partners to discuss strengthening domestic resource capacity. Hon. Abubakar Dahiru Sarki then discussed how private facilities have been supporting the government’s pandemic response, as Nigeria has a strong and heavily utilized private health sector across primary, secondary, and tertiary facilities. And Hon. Gisela Scaglia emphasised her concern for the economies in the Americas region, highlighting that economies have a significant role to play in healthcare.
All four MPs highlighted that now is the time to ensure efforts are directed towards health financing particularly on R&D for new vaccines, not just for COVID-19, but for TB as well.
Over the course of the event, there were 340 participants. The GTBC would like to extend thanks to both the Center for Global Development and The Global Fund for inviting us to participate in a highly relevant and informative discussion.