It is unjust and unacceptable for 1.7 million people to die of Tuberculosis each year worldwide – a disease that is not only preventable, but can be treated and defeated. As we commemorate World TB Day on 24 March, we must reflect and begin to ask ourselves pertinent questions on how we fight TB in Africa.
Are we really winning the fight against TB? What are the lessons learnt and best practices and how can these be positively applied to energise current efforts to end TB in the world, and in Africa particularly? The answers to these symmetrical questions demand political and social commitment, both pre-requisites without which the fight to end TB will be lost. There is an urgent need to mobilise our political leaders to speak with one voice and to advocate for improved financial and human resources towards this cause, as well as hasten research and innovation to encourage scientists to find new regimens to treat TB – regimens that are cheaper, accessible and easier to use with shorter treatment timelines.
The NEPAD Agency is working towards this end by involving Parliamentarians to mobilise political support in Africa. Many African leaders have already made commitments to ending TB through the Catalytic Framework to End AIDS, TB and Eliminate Malaria in Africa by 2030. Our objective is to implement and reinforce this commitment with strategic partners.
This is a fight that requires working in unison for a common agenda. Hence, we have embraced multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approaches to combat the scourge of TB from all possible vantage points. A healthy Africa translates into a productive workforce, eventually advancing our agenda of socio-economic development.
In addition to political commitment, we have reached a stage where the civil society has to be actively involved in efforts to fight TB given the dynamics of our social structures. African social structures generally provide support to TB patients, support to affected families in times of difficulty and spread the messages of prevention, which is fundamentally as important to ending TB as is treatment. It is time we begin to break myths and tell the unique stories of those who have defeated TB, the TB survivors. These powerful voices can no longer be underrated in behavioural change approaches, which is required to successfully address the challenges of TB mis-information in our communities.
No one should have to die from TB or lose their source of income or job because of TB. This is an injustice that we must endeavour to correct without fail. No one should be left behind in this fight against TB. NEPAD Agency is committed to the theme of this year’s World TB Day of Wanted: Leaders for a TB-Free World. You can make history. End TB.
We need to find the leaders who will make history by delivering a TB-free world. These leaders exist and are ready to be engaged. Many times we tend to look beyond ourselves, but YOU and I are these leaders, we can champion the cause to end TB and bring our contribution to eliminate this scourge for good in Africa, and the world by 2030. Stand up today and be counted among the leaders, you are wanted.