WHO Global TB Symposium

Yesterday saw an ambitious tone set for this year’s Union World Conference, with the official pre-conference World Health Organization (WHO) Global Tuberculosis (TB) Symposium. Experts from around the world spoke to a packed auditorium on the topic, Multisectoral Action to Accelerate Progress towards Ending TB.

This session saw reflection on the progress of recent years in combatting TB, and looked ahead to the first-ever United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on TB in 2018. 

Diana Weil, coordinator, WHO Global TB Programme, opened the session, saying “this year we have seen organisations linking TB to a bigger agenda.” She also made an appeal to “Leave no one behind,” saying “The agenda for TB is no longer about averages. We want to reach everyone.”

The symposium was held at the University of Guadalajara; and Dr Jaime Andrade-Villanueva from the University Centre for Health Sciences spoke about the innovative role of universities in global health, saying “Universities work to encourage new interdisciplinary approaches to these problems, acting as a bridge between institutions in developing countries.”

Held in advance of the High-Level Meeting, heads of state and other leaders, WHO and the Russian Federation are holding the first WHO Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB in the Sustainable Development Era: A Multisectoral Response.  

Dr Teresa Kasaeva from the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Health spoke about the upcoming conference, which will be held in 2018. Explaining that over the last 8 years, Russia has decreased TB mortality by 65%, Dr Kasaeva said “Russia is keen to demonstrate how multisectoral cooperation can work. But we need immediate action, and effective steps to have an impact.” She emphasised that the TB community have never had a meeting like this, with so many health ministries involved, and urged the audience to take advantage of this opportunity.

The session was a chance for countries to share the progress they have made in tackling TB. “In Kenya, 40 per cent of cases have previously gone undetected”, said Dr Brenda Nyambura Mungai, from Kenya’s TB ARC Centre.

Drawing the symposium to a close, The Union President, Dr Jeremiah Chakaya Muhwa, looked to the future: “The over-riding message I take away with me from today is that we cannot beat TB if we don’t work together. We must adopt a mulitsectoral approach.”

“The next 12 months represent a pivotal moment when we can bring momentum and clarity to our shared goal to eliminate TB throughout the world. I am heartened by today to believe that we can take our opportunity and make our goal a reality. We must work harder and smarter and think much bigger than we ever have before.”