Veteran Nigerian actor, Richard Mofe-Damijo, alongside communities and NGO delegations of the Global Stop TB Partnership Geneva have called on UN member states to leverage COVID-19 as a strategic opportunity to end the scourge of Tuberculosis.
They made the call during a virtual launch of a report: “A Deadly Divide: TB Commitments vs. TB Realities – A Communities Report on Progress Towards the UN Political Declaration on the Fight Against TB and a Call to Action to Close the Gaps in TB Targets’’.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the report, a first for the TB community, gives voice to those most directly affected by TB, people who are often left behind.
It also amongst others, gives progress report of the pivotal role played by communities and civil society in following up and monitoring the implementation of the Political Declaration and holding stakeholders to account.
Damijo, popularly called RMD, represents Nigeria in the global scene as a StopTB Campaign Advocate for Societal Change.
Unveiling the report, RMD commended the efforts put into the document.
According to him, focus on COVID-19 as an excuse not to achieve some of the call to actions to stop TB is not excusable.
“COVID-19 should be an opportunity to build back models, even to build higher than we were before COVID-19.
“Often, the attention of government and our leaders is usually not strong when there is no clear and present danger to everybody.
“The numbers don’t frighten them anymore as a novel virus is on ground.
“I hope countries begin to implement the call to actions; there is the need to begin to look at key populations and that all of them are reached in an equitable manner with quality services.
“We should also capitalise on the universal health coverage campaign and continue with the social mobilisation.
“This is one step of building momentum. I just want to congratulate everyone for the successful development and launching of this wonderful report,’’ RMD said.
In her presentation, Olive Mumba, said that in spite of COVID-19, commitments to end TB should be ongoing by developing, funding and implementing TB/COVID Catch-Up Plans to enable National TB Programmes to get back on track and accelerate progress toward the Political Declaration’s commitments.
Mumba, who is the Executive Director of Eastern Africa National Networks of AIDS and Health Service Organisations (EANNASO), said that COVID-19 was not an excuse to fail to meet TB targets, but an opportunity to ‘build back better’.
She explained that the report showed there had been important advances by governments and member states in all Areas of Action in 2018-2020.
However, progress was too little and too slow, with a ‘deadly divide’ between commitments and results, hitting hardest at key and vulnerable communities.
“COVID-19 has disrupted everything. It is reversing the gains made in the response to TB, but is also an opportunity to ‘build back better’.
“ Accountability for the response to TB remains weak, with multi-sectoral and high-level leadership often inadequate.
“Funding for TB is inadequate. Donors and multilaterals need to increase investments in the response, in affected communities/civil society, in research and development, and in market expansion for new tools
“The role, engagement and funding of TB affected communities and civil society is essential to the scale and quality of policies and programmes needed – reinforcement of people-centred TB response
“The introduction and scale-up of Community, Rights and Gender (CRG) initiatives are shaping national TB strategies and the trajectory of the epidemic for the better,’’ she cited the report.
Mumba made a call to action for UN member countries to invest the funds necessary to end TB .
“This is by collaborating to achieve 100 per cent of the Political Declaration’s targets for financial investment in the response to TB, and the scaling-up of domestic and international funding for community-based and led TB interventions.
“ All people should be reached through TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.
“There should be commitment to accountability, multisectorality and leadership on TB through urgent implementation of an independent National Multisectoral Accountability Framework for TB in every country ,as committed to by 2019.
“We call to action for the acceleration of the development of, and access to, essential new tools to end TB.
“Make the TB response rights-based, equitable and stigma-free, with communities at the centre,’’ she said.