Delhi “End TB Summit” address

13 March 2018, Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, India

Hon’ble Chair, Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda, Minister of Health, India and Co-chair, Mr Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Health, Nutrition & Indigenous Medicine, Sri Lanka; Hon’ble Ministers of Health, Director-General, Deputy Director-General, ADG and other WHO colleagues; Executive Director, Global Fund; Executive Director of the Stop TB partnership; partners, civil society representatives,

Welcome back. This morning’s proceedings were intense though highly productive.

Of particular note is the confidence and trust so evident – the respect we have for our joint commitment to bend the curve and End TB once and for all.

That commitment – and our trust in one another to honor it – exists at the highest levels of government, both in the South-East Asia Region and beyond. It also exists among international development partners, many of whom are here today, looking to support TB-affected countries in their struggle against the devastating, poverty-inducing disease.

Most importantly, that trust exists among civil society groups and affected communities – persons who suffer TB such as Mr Kumar Singh, who spoke so movingly this morning about his courageous struggle. It is our duty to honor Mr Singh’s voice. It is our duty to recognize and validate his struggle and make full use of this opportunity to drive change for millions of TB sufferers like him.

I am a firm believer that TB is a political issue as much as a clinical and technical issue. That is why in 2014, when I became Regional Director, one of the first things I did was attempt to find out what exactly was going on – why TB remained the Region’s number one killer in the 15-45 year age bracket.

In doing so, I found that a large part of the reason was a USD 1.2 billion funding shortfall for TB programmes Region-wide. I also found that TB programmes themselves lacked the tools needed and were being provided inadequate strategic direction and focus. Modelling confirmed that unless dramatic action was taken, the Region – and with it the world – had zero chance of reaching the Sustainable Development Goal target of ending TB by 2030.

A tectonic shift was needed. A shift that was political. A shift that was technical. A shift that was strategic.

To make that happen, last year WHO South-East Asia took an unprecedented step: We convened all 11 of the Region’s health ministers to work out how best to accelerate progress and achieve the 2030 target. At the meeting’s conclusion, all 11 ministers issued a Call for Action – a Call for Action that highlighted the political, technical and strategic revolution needed to reach our goal and bring TB’s deadly menace to a close.

That Call for Action is now the cornerstone of our drive and ambition. We are the only Region to have taken such a bold initiative – one that has created its own momentum, as witnessed by our strong showing at the Global Ministerial Conference on TB in Moscow last November, and the High-Level meeting on TB at the UN General Assembly in September.

But it is a year since the Call for Action was issued and it is time we reviewed progress. Before we do, however, let us briefly recall what the Call for Action entailed.

First, the establishment of an empowered national initiative in all Member States. Second, ensuring full funding for ending TB based on ambitious and adequate targets. Third, providing universal access to high-quality TB care in all sectors. Fourth, ensuring patient-centered socioeconomic support. Fifth, pursuing innovation and implementation research. And sixth, mobilizing global resources.

I am pleased to note strong progress in several areas. Our Member States have increased domestic funding for TB programmes. Two of them have done so by more than 100%. All 11 Member States have accelerated active case-finding. Seven of them are doing so specifically among high-risk groups. Patient-centered policies have been developed and implemented Region-wide, including direct cash transfers and nutritional support for persons suffering TB. And almost all Member States have developed plans to engage civil society organizations.

Of course there are many areas where progress must be accelerated. I look forward to hearing from Your Excellencies and our partners on some of the challenges faced and how WHO can best support you as we work towards our common goal.

But beyond these key deliberations – these vitally important exchanges – allow me to say a few words about this afternoon’s proceedings and what we are looking to achieve.

As you know, the High-Level Meeting on TB in September provides a significant opportunity to mobilize global resources – the resources needed to match national-level will and resolve, both in our Region and elsewhere. Securing those resources means demonstrating our seriousness. It means inspiring confidence in others of the trust and commitment we share.

To that end, together we will devise a statement on what Member States, partners and stakeholders will accomplish in the next year and how together we will achieve those goals. In that statement we will specifically address the gap between commitment and action in some of the Call for Action’s areas. As part of the statement we will also address how our Region can best leverage its voice at September’s High-Level Meeting – how we can present a unified front and highlight the severity of the challenge we face. Our deliberations in this afternoon’s sessions will feed directly into this statement, and I very much look forward to your active participation.

Given the magnitude of the South-East Asia Region’s TB’s burden, global progress is incumbent on our progress. Indeed, the world will fail if we fail. So I urge you to fully comprehend – to note with sincere conviction – this fundamental truth: Leadership to End TB by 2030 begins here. It begins with each of us and the opportunity we have to build on the progress achieved since the Call for Action was issued. It begins with this afternoon’s deliberations and the statement we will devise – the grit, resolve and wisdom it will reflect. It begins with our sincerity, our trust and commitment, and our ability to inspire confidence in those at the highest levels of global health and international diplomacy.

Should our leadership succeed, our beginnings will produce one of the greatest conclusions imaginable – an imperative that is one of the South-East Asia Region’s Flagship Priority Areas: Ending TB by 2030, and doing so for all people everywhere.

Thank you very much.

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