- Mobilize their scientific communities and increase funding for TB research and development;
- Ensure equitable and affordable access to all TB medicines and medical products for all who need them, including overcoming patent barriers as allowed through flexibilities in the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS); and
- Institute an accountability framework that ensures all governments are on track and held accountable to meeting their stated national and global commitments.
WHO has called for an unprecedented mobilization of national and international commitments, and urged political leaders to take decisive action. "We have never seen such high-level political attention and understanding of what the world needs to do to end TB and drug-resistant TB. We must capitalize on this new momentum and act together to end this terrible disease," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General.
Are we really committed?
All these are noble and laudable intentions, but unless matched by appropriate and continued sustainable action, it will remain a rhetoric. Ending the TB epidemic requires action beyond the health sector to address the risk factors and determinants of the disease. History seems to be repeating itself at this so-called historic summit. Despite WHO's best efforts, its Global Ministerial Conference, "Ending TB in the Sustainable Development Era: A Multi-sectoral Response," held in Moscow in November 2017, had managed to attract only the health ministers, barring a few exceptions.
Politics is the ultimate determinant of health
Similarly less than 50-odd heads of states seem to have deemed the UNHLM to end TB important enough to merit their presence. All others (including India, which accounts for the highest TB burden worldwide) will be content to be represented by their ministers of health and/or other high officials. So how can one expect to galvanise a global multi-sectoral action, when the highest political authorities of most countries do not think it important enough to be present at a meeting convened for them? Unless countries deliver on the SDGs, which requires coordinated and concerted interdepartmental efforts at country level, we will not be able to end TB. Merely issuing declarations will not do! It is not about "We can" but that "We will." It is about political accountability. Let us remember what Chief Editor of The Lancet Dr Richard Horton said: "Politics is, in many ways, the ultimate determinant of our health." Hope world leaders commit to put TB response on track to end TB by 2030!
Shobha Shukla, CNS (Citizen News Service)
(Shobha Shukla is the Managing Editor at CNS. Follow her on Twitter @Shobha1Shukla, @CNS_Health or visit www.citizen-news.org)