The World Health Organization’s Global TB Program has established a Global Civil Society Task Force on TB to enhance the engagement of communities, non-governmental and other civil society organizations in the implementation of the End TB Strategy.
Geneva, 29 June 2016 – Representation of affected communities and civil society in the commitment to end tuberculosis (TB) by 2030 was strengthened recently with the formation of a WHO Global Civil Society Task Force on TB (CSTF).
The CSTF will contribute to implementation of the End TB Strategy and key recommendations from the Statement of Action.The Task Force has a particular focus on key populations, social protection, universal health coverage and advocating for the inclusion of affected communities in national TB strategies and plans, national social programmes and political platforms (e.g. parliaments), as well as regional and global platforms for policy dialogue.
It also aims to enhance the engagement of affected communities, NGOs and other CSOs in the overall implementation of the End TB Strategy and promote and nurture strong and effective linkages between CSOs and national TB programmes.
The first meeting of the CSTF was held alongside the 16th Meeting of the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Tuberculosis (STAG-TB) in Geneva from 13-16 June 2016. One of the CSTF’s key roles is to provide input to the 23-member STAG-TB group deliberations on the enhanced engagement of communities, NGOs and other CSOs. Inclusion of the Task Force represents a wider shift from a largely bio-medical TB approach to one that is people-centered and based on human rights and social inclusion.
“The TB epidemic kills three people every minute” said Oyebisi Babatunde Oluseyi, representing the Nigeria Network of NGOs. “If we are truly committed to addressing the TB epidemic, then affected communities, civil society and other NGOs must be at the heart of the response.”
Sameer Sah, TB Alert, echoed this sentiment, calling for “Innovative, evidence-based interventions reflecting a human rights and people-centered approach in realizing the paradigm shift demanded by the End TB Strategy.”
“We congratulate WHO, for facilitating this forum for CBOs, NGOs and affected communities to share their rich experiences to inform policy, shape programme guidelines and form partnerships that can contribute to ending TB by 2030,” said Blessina Kumar, Global Coalition of TB Activists.
For the Asia-Pacific region, the meeting “provided a unique opportunity to learn, to engage and to network” explained James Malar from APCASO. “The CSTF look forward to building on this experience over the next 24 months. In particular, we look forward to joining and participating in the STAG-TB meeting next year and other opportunities offered to the CSTF by WHO, to promote partnership and inclusion.”
“CSTF applauds the way the STAG-TB promoted and included the perspectives of affected populations and civil society throughout their recommendations to WHO” said Mandy Slutsker, ACTION.
CSTF’s inclusion in the STAG-TB complements the Global Plan to End TB’s focus on the need engage key populations and promote the collective responsibility for protecting vulnerable people. The Global Plan incorporates the investment package for the first five years of the End TB Strategy,though stronger disaggregated data is still needed.
“Country and regional specific key populations lists need to be developed, key population disaggregated data must be collated and interventions to meet the needs of these groups must be composed” noted Ademe Tsegaye, CUAMM.
The Global Plan to End TB recommends an operational target of reaching at least 90% of the key populations with access to services, systematic screening, active new case-finding methods, including providing people with effective and affordable treatment and care. To meet this, the CSTF has called on the WHO to continue to engage affected populations and civil society and to promote a human rights-based, people-centered and gender transformative interventions during the planning, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of all policy and programme initiatives.
The Engage TB approach recognizes establishing and strengthening networks of key populations at national and regional levels, and advancing their engagement in the TB response as a key strategy for realizing the Global Plan and the WHO End TB Strategy targets. We look forward to sharing this approach and mobilizing an increasingly influential and capacitated voice among affected communities and civil society.
“Affected communities and civil society are best placed to reach the 3 million TB cases each year. Affected communities and civil society are also well placed to reach remote and mobile populations, and to progress interventions in support of people with silicosis-TB co-infection, that may not be accessible to the national programmes”, says Jacqueline Bodibe, Congress of South African Trade Unions.
“We call on all stakeholders to engage with us and discuss how together we can reach these key populations and identify these missed cases. If we fail in these areas, we will fail to end TB,” said Timpiyian Leseni, Talaku Community Organisation.
These challenges cannot be overcome through bio-medical responses. As Dr. Khin Swe Win, Myanmar Medical Association, noted “addressing TB should go beyond clinical management alone. Social and psychological support, particularly with drug-resistant TB, is essential as is the integration of social, and economic concerns.”
Gracia Violeta Ross Quiroga, Latin American Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS agreed, “the Integration of nutrition programmes, freedom from discrimination, peer support and counselling as well as the elimination of catastrophic costs are aspects of particular concern to the CSTF.”
We must never lose sight of the people who are most marginalized and most vulnerable to TB. “Affected populations and the NGOs and CSOs who represent these groups must be at the forefront of efforts in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation in TB prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care” said Jamilya Ismoilova, Project HOPE. “Nothing for us, without us.”