By: H.E. Amira Elfadil Mohamed – Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, African Union Commission
24 March 2021, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Today, the African Union Commission joins the rest of the world to commemorate World Tuberculosis Day, and celebrate the achievements gained in the fight against tuberculosis (TB) in African Union (AU) Member States. Every year, the Commission also takes the opportunity to highlight the policy and programmatic challenges contributing to TB prevalence on the continent. A decade ago, the problem of TB in Africa garnered little attention. Today, TB’s weight on health systems in Africa is immense. Globally, tuberculosis is the ninth leading cause of death and the first leading cause of a single infectious agent. Africa CDC records that over 25% of TB deaths occur in Africa.
The Commission upholds World TB Day as an opportunity for those affected by TB, communities, civil society organizations, healthcare providers, policymakers, development partners, and others to advocate, discuss and plan further collaboration to fulfill the promise of reaching all people with quality TB prevention and care services, as well as enabling TB prevention through multisectoral development efforts. I encourage AU Member States to leverage this day to exchange knowledge on common challenges and opportunities for collaborative implementation of effective TB control measures.
The theme: The Clock is Ticking marks the urgency to fulfill the United Nations Political Declaration on Tuberculosis targets by the agreed December 2022 deadline. Stakeholders in the field of TB all over the world will light up a city landmark, building, or clock in red on 24 March 2021 to bring attention to the devastating impact of TB. I invite the AU Members States to join the global movement and light up a building or site to recognize all the bold and dedicated caregivers who work at the TB frontline in the communities to save lives daily. Patients and their families bear TB diagnosis and treatment’s direct monetary costs. The indirect costs of lost income and production, incurred when TB patients are too sick to work and when young adults—often parents and householders—die prematurely. By saving lives, healthcare workers preserve generations.
The African Union Commission aligns to the global target of ending the TB epidemic by 2030 at the forefront of battling disease burden in Africa by implementing the Africa Health Strategy (2016 – 2030) and the Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB, and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030. One of the Africa Health Strategy’s strategic pillars aims to reduce morbidity and end preventable mortality from communicable and non-communicable diseases such as tuberculosis. The Catalytic Framework envisions the end of TB deaths, cases, and catastrophic costs due to TB by 2030. The AU Agenda 2063 calls for “A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.” To achieve this ambition, one of Africa’s key goals is to ensure that its citizens are healthy and well-nourished and adequate levels of investment are made to expand access to quality health care.
I urge AU Member States to continue to align to these policy frameworks adopted by Heads of State and Government, to realise the end of TB by 2030. Practical implementation demands that countries understand their unique challenges, such as the link between TB and HIV/AIDS and the effect on the deterioration of control programs. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), also remains a clear threat to TB control in Africa, which must be addressed for the continent to meet its health and development-related targets.
In conclusion, I reiterate that the Commission recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted normalcy regarding TB care and treatment. I applaud the AU Member States, whose leaders responded quickly to set up mitigation measures that have seen minimization of caseloads during this challenging time. As we commemorate World TB Day, let us remember that protecting our communities is protecting the neighboring nations. We must continue to work together to address TB and the challenges that beset its elimination in Africa to advance as a continent.
The Commission will continue to support AU Member States to ensure vigorous TB control in the coming months and the overall wellness of Africa’s people.
I thank you