Historic UN High-Level Meeting on TB opens with sweeping commitments by global leaders

Washington, D.C. (Sept. 26) – In a major win for affected communities and advocates across the world, the first-ever United Nations High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) on Tuberculosis (TB) opened with firm commitments by leaders from all member states to reach 40 million people with treatment by 2022 and scale up global funding to US$13 billion per year for TB programs and $2 billion for research and development (R&D) annually in order to do so.

The centerpiece of the UNHLM is its Political Declaration, “United to End Tuberculosis: An Urgent Global Response to a Global Epidemic.” Advocates welcomed the declaration, which provides a framework for effectively responding to the epidemic and measuring progress toward ending the disease by 2030 in keeping with Sustainable Development Goal 3.

ACTION joined 127 members of affected communities and civil society, calling on governments to flesh out that framework with additional specific commitments and pledging to play a strong role in the next phase of the fight against TB.

“The UNHLM on TB is a strong starting point in the global fight against TB. But, it’s only that — a starting point,” says ACTION Leadership Group Chair Allan Ragi, reacting to the Political Declaration. “Our health systems are still not finding one out of every three people who are sick with TB, and we are $6.1 billion short of the Political Declaration’s target of $13 billion for TB programs. The commitments made today must be backed by investment and action to ensure we turn the tide against this ancient disease.”

For decades, TB has been stuck at the bottom of the list of political priorities, which has allowed it to rise to the top of the list of infectious killers. Last week, the World Health Organization released the 2018 Global TB Report, which showed that for the fourth year in a row, TB remains the world’s single largest infectious killer with 1.6 million deaths in 2017 and that 3.6 million “missing people” with TB went undiagnosed or unreported.

“It is imperative to see this kind of response at the highest levels of government because TB cannot be resolved through health system interventions alone,” says Mandy Slutsker, the ACTION Secretariat’s policy and advocacy manager and co-chair of the Affected Communities and Civil Society Advisory Panel for the UNHLM. “There are many issues that contribute to the TB epidemic that require action outside of the health ministries areas of responsibility — such as outbreaks in prisons and schools. Leadership is needed at the head-of-state level to drive comprehensive efforts to end the disease and that’s what this declaration represents.”

ACTION partners have spent the last year urging their heads of state to attend the UNHLM on TB. The event is a product of years of advocacy by ACTION, the Stop TB Partnership, and other civil society groups determined to draw attention to the world’s leading infectious killer and predicated on the belief that lack of progress toward eradicating the disease is a political problem more than anything else. Now, efforts will turn to ensuring that the momentum generated today in New York carries through to actual changes in the way TB programs are funded and run. 

Next year, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund) will be holding its sixth replenishment in Lyon, France. The 2019 replenishment is an opportunity for leaders to follow through on commitments made at the UNHLM on TB. Since its inception in 2002, the Global Fund has saved more than 27 million lives, according to its most recent annual results report, and remains the leading external financer of TB programs globally. Other opportunities include keeping antimicrobial resistance and TB R&D high on the agenda of the G20 platform; building a stronger multi-sectoral response beyond the immediate medical response; and scaling up new tools and strategies to reach all people at risk of falling sick with TB, particularly those put at risk by poverty, gender inequality, discrimination, and marginalization.

ACTION Global Health Advocacy Partnership

ACTION is a partnership of 13 locally rooted organizations around the world that advocate together to build political will and increase investments for global health. Our partners: Æquitas (India), CITAMplus (Zambia), Global Health Advocates France, Global Health Advocates India, HDT (Tanzania), KANCO (Kenya), Princess of Africa Foundation (South Africa), RESULTS International Australia, RESULTS Canada, RESULTS Educational Fund (U.S.), RESULTS Japan, RESULTS UK, and WACI Health (Kenya and South Africa).