GANDHINAGAR, Aug 17: The WHO South-East Asia Region, which bears a disproportionate burden of nearly half of the global TB cases and deaths, on Thursday committed to further accelerate efforts to end tuberculosis by 2030 with its member countries adopting the Gandhinagar Declaration.
“Today urgent action is needed more than ever to achieve our goal of a region free of tuberculosis, that has been menacing millions of people with disease and death, poverty, and despair,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director WHO South-East Asia, said in her address to a ministerial meeting on “Sustain, Accelerate, and Innovate to end TB in the South-East Asia Region”.
The Gandhinagar Declaration was adopted at the end of the two-day meeting held to follow-up on the progress made to end TB, a flagship priority in the region, and in the run-up to the UN High Level Meeting on TB on September 22 in New York.
The declaration calls for establishing a high-level multisectoral commission reporting to the highest political level in each country for synergy of efforts among various stakeholders, and to monitor progress towards ending TB and other priority diseases.
“These high-level multisectoral commissions on TB could also help build responsive health systems and advance universal health coverage and health security,” the WHO regional director said, adding that during the Covid-19 pandemic, TB infrastructure was rapidly deployed for infection diagnosis and containment.
The declaration calls for ensuring appropriate adoption and use of science and technology for equitable and human rights-based TB services that are accessible to all, irrespective of any social, cultural, or demographic divide, through an integrated, primary health care approach, she said.
It emphasises on allocation of necessary resources to meet TB service coverage targets and address social determinants to have multi-disease impact.
“In 2022, TB allocations in the region reached US dollar 1.4 billion, of which 60 per cent was from domestic sources. However, for mission success, we need at least 3 billion US dollars annually, which will also help maintain key social protection programmes such as for nutritional support. Let us build on the substantial increases already achieved,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said.
She also emphasised on empowering and engaging TB-affected communities by not just listening to but truly hearing them.
The declaration calls on WHO to maintain TB as a flagship priority programme over the coming years and provide leadership and technical support to countries for sustained and accelerated approaches supported by research and innovation.
Home to a quarter of the global population, the WHO South-East Asia Region accounts for nearly half of the new TB cases and deaths globally every year. (PTI)