When the world experiences a global health emergency, political energy increases, and opportunities are presented not only for major change in the strengthening of health systems but also opening new channels for cross-sectoral collaboration and cooperation between governments, the research community, civil society and the private sector. In September 2020, the Zambia TB Caucus hosted a meeting of main TB stakeholders including members of the Ministry of Health of Zambia, USAID, WHO, National AIDS Council, and CITAM+.
Chaired by Hon Christopher Kalila MP, major announcements by Minister of Health of Zambia Dr Chitalu Chilufya at the meeting included the increase of TB prevention therapy coverage from 18% to 49% - surpassing United Nations High Level Meeting targets - and 76% treatment success rate for MDR-TB - much higher than both global and Africa targets. Hon Dr Chilufya attributed Zambia’s progress in health systems strengthening to the safeguarding of resources dedicated to TB response, support from partners for a unified effort, and the dedication of frontline health care workers to reaching the SDG goals by 2030.
USAID local mission Director Sheryl Stumbras shared equally good news of 90% treatment success rates in MDR-TB, while TB-HIV co-infection had reduced to 60%. However, she reiterated the large amount of work that still needed to be done, and USAID’s dedication to increase investment and build local commitment and capacity to end TB in Zambia. Both Director Stumbras and WHO Zambia representative Dr Nathan Bakyaita emphasised the need for deeper engagement of private sector partners along with strengthening the multi-sectoral accountability framework to clearly define and recognise the roles and responsibilities of all partners.
The National TB Program conducted technical training for MPs to increase capacity in advocacy efforts to their Heads of State to sign onto the UNHLM TB targets, and actions agreed upon during the meeting include advocating for TB to be introduced in primary school curriculums; continued efforts towards budget increases and policy reform for TB; expanding public awareness of TB through information dissemination and campaigns; and developing specific tracking of Caucus member activities.
Hon Kalila closed with acknowledgment of the strong leadership demonstrated by the Minister, who spearheaded the formation of the Zambia Caucus as part of commitments made at the Ministerial Conference held in Moscow in 2017. The Zambia TB Caucus was launched in 2018, and in collaboration with CSO partner CITAM+ have participated and presented at international conferences, and conducted extensive research to ascertain TB burden in correctional institutions.