The Pan-African Parliament's delegation from the Committee on Health, Labour, and Social Affairs is currently leading the charge at the esteemed Global TB Caucus 4th Africa TB Summit. The summit, themed "Charting a Political Course towards the UN High-Level Meeting on TB and Beyond," commenced today in Nairobi, Kenya, and will continue until July 28, 2023.
Under the theme "Future-proof," the summit has gathered parliamentary leaders and stakeholders from across the African region, including representatives from Anglophone, Francophone, and Lusophone countries. The Continental Parliament's representation, headed by Hon. Jean Patrice France Quirin, Chairperson of the Committee on Health, Labour and Social Affairs, and Hon. Dr Arba Nouhou, the Committee Rapporteur, is actively engaging in the summit. Their participation entails showcasing the African Parliament's ongoing endeavors in combating infectious diseases and contributing to the formulation of a sustainable political response to TB in Africa and beyond.
The Global TB Caucus, an eminent global network comprising over 2500 parliamentarians from 150 countries, committed to eradicating TB on national, regional, and global levels, is spearheading significant regional efforts to address the escalating challenges of TB.
In an address to leading officials in health, fellow parliamentarians, and distinguished guests, Hon. Quirin emphasized the pivotal importance of the 4th TB Summit, particularly in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, which brought various sectors to a standstill and underscored the critical significance of health in all aspects of development. He stated, "Health is the key to all development. The health crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic shook the world between 2020 and 2022, paralyzing all sectors of activity. It is imperative that we recognize the vital role of health in driving progress and prosperity."
The post-Covid-19 period has galvanized intensified advocacy efforts, and the Pan-African Parliament is actively engaged in a mapping exercise to mobilize additional national resources for combating HIV, Tuberculosis, Malaria, and Covid-19. Hon. Quirin mentioned, "This study is funded by UNAIDS, the Global Fund, and the World Health Organization. We hope to receive this report before the end of this year, and we are appealing to other partners to extend this mapping to other Member States, to assess the situation in each country and provide appropriate solutions."
The latest WHO 2022 Global TB report has shown a concerning increase in the estimated number of deaths from TB, reversing the decline observed between 2005 and 2019. Additionally, the burden of drug-resistant TB has reached alarming levels. Progress towards achieving TB targets in the African region has been slow due to insufficient funding, programmatic challenges, and service delivery issues. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has further hampered the fight against TB, derailing many African countries from meeting UN HLM 2023 targets.
However, Hon. Quirin also shed light on the persistent issue of inadequate funding for the health sector in African states. He pointed out that despite various commitments made by the African Union, such as the Abuja Declaration of 2001 and the High-Level Summit in Brazzaville in July 2019, which urged Member States to allocate at least 15% of their national budgets to health, African health systems remain precarious and inaccessible to rural populations. He stated, "The health sector is the least funded in our national budgets, hindering access to essential healthcare services for our people, especially those living in rural areas."
As a continental institution with a mandate to promote human rights, democratic principles, and the right to health in Africa, the Pan-African Parliament remains steadfast in advocating for increased budgets for health. Hon. Quirin emphasized, "As part of its missions, the Pan-African Parliament has undertaken awareness-raising and advocacy actions with States in favor of increasing budgets for health."
Hon. Quirin concluded his speech by underlining the urgency of eradicating these diseases and stressing the need for collaboration in this endeavor. He emphasized the significance of traditional medicine, saying, "The Pan-African Parliament has just initiated a reflection on the development of traditional medicine, with a view to its integration into our health systems. Traditional medicine is not yet developed despite the biodiversity that the continent has."
The summit's key objectives encompass sharing experiences and best practices on TB response and financing, enhancing budget advocacy capacity for MPs to mobilize internal resources for TB financing, deepening the understanding of linkages between HIV/TB, Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Primary Health Care (PHC), and public-private partnerships (PPR), and fostering regional and in-country partnerships for increased advocacy and lobby for domestic and global resources.
The summit features expert presentations, including a presentation from Hon. Dr Arba Nouhou, Rapporteur of the Pan-African Parliament Committee on Health, Labour and Social Affairs on the role of Africa’s Parliament in advancing the objectives of the fight against TB. Other aspects of the programme include a TB survivors' network, panel discussions, group discussions, and a site visit, providing participants with invaluable opportunities to exchange experiences, acquire knowledge, and contribute to the process of the UN HLM through a unified work plan.