Tuberculosis is subject of the General Assembly of the Central American Parliament
Guatemala City, Guatemala - On February 22, the Central American Parliament (Parlacen) concluded its monthly General Assembly. Among the various topics, tuberculosis (TB) was a highlight of the meeting, recognized as a serious health problem in the region, as well as being an issue on the international parliamentary agenda.
To address the issue, Parlacen invited the Uruguayan member of parliament Luis Gallo, co-chair of the Americas TB Caucus. Gallo was invited to give an overview of the TB situation in Central America, and to present some data for Latin America and the rest of the world. He also highlighted the importance of the role legislators play in TB response at the national, regional and global levels.
"Spaces like this are very important to determine regional and international political agendas. Tuberculosis is gaining more and more space in the global health agenda and we must continue to add political will to the movement, now is the moment to take action, " Gallo said regarding the High Level Meeting on TB, which will take place in September this year during the United Nations General Assembly.
Gallo continues: "as parliamentarians, we can bring attention to the issue and mobilize our Heads of State to attend the High Level Meeting, which is a very important step towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, committed by our governments back in 2015. "
Presenting the report The Price of a Pandemic from the Global TB Caucus, Gallo explained how it is necessary to take immediate political action to achieve the goals and save lives: "If we continue with the current rate of progress there will be approximately 800 thousand TB cases until 2030 in the 6 countries that are part of Parlacen alone. And 90 thousand people will die due to TB in these countries. To give an idea, at the rate of progress, Nicaragua will reach the SDG`s target only in 2037, Honduras only in 2042 and Guatemala only in 2052. And worse, Panama, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Mexico will not reach the target before 2150, that is, 120 years after what we have agreed. And we are talking about countries with relatively low TB rates, which could do much more, much quicker. "
According to the report, the economic impact of inaction will also be strong for the region: between 2015 and 2030, TB will cost the Americas USD $ 42 billion, and the costs for Central America will reach to almost USD $ 9 billion dollars.
Gallo also shared the floor with Luis Sánchez, civil society representative, who ratified the importance of putting the voices of patients at the center of the discussions.
"Today we are convinced that the answer to end TB has to be comprehensive, with a strong political and budgetary response and an active participation of civil society," said Sanchéz. "As civil society representative at this meeting, I would like to invite you to use all your power as regional parliamentarians and your privilege political position to make sure that your Heads of States and different ministers - of health, finance and social development - attend the first High Level Meeting on TB from the United Nations," he concluded.
After the General Assembly, the Caucus delegation met with the president of Parlacen, Mr. Tony Raful Tejada, who committed to recommending governments to attend the High Level Meeting. The delegation also met with representatives from El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama, members of the Parlacen Health Committee, who committed to taking the discussions around the High Level Meeting to their national assembly.
The Americas TB Caucus visit ended with a meeting with the Guatemalan former president, Alejandro Maldonado Aguirre, who committed to reaching out to the current president and request his attendance to the HLM.