19 May 2022 – Geneva – 35th Meeting of the Stop TB Partnership Board – The Community and Civil Society constituents would like to extend our significant thanks to the Stop TB Partnership Board leadership and Secretariat for preparing this hybrid meeting. We appreciate all efforts to provide clear documents to Board members to facilitate quality decision making.
We would also like to restate our support for colleagues and constituents, impacted by the unjustifiable military attack of Ukraine and call for cessation of all attacks on health care which has forced thousands to forgo accessing health services despite catastrophic needs. We reaffirm our solidarity with Ukraine and its people, today and in the future.
We commend the efforts of the secretariat in responding to TB amidst the challenges posed by COVID 19 and calling on continuation of services and mitigation of the negative impact of COVID on TB response. Many congratulations to Mr. Austin Arinze Obiefuna for taking his position as a new Vice-Chair of the Stop TB Partnership Board.
Despite being curable and treatable TB continues to kill over 1 million people every year, over 4,000 every day. While impacts are felt at the personal level, it is the lack of political will and investment that remain the biggest barriers to ending the epidemic. Investing in the priorities of the TB affected community and civil society are key if we are to enhance governance, generate demand, strengthen advocacy, reform law and policy, champion human rights and realize true TB accountability. On human rights, we must develop a common TB language that empowers, rather than stigmatizes, those who are affected. We applaud the updated language guide Words Matter and urge its widespread utilization.
COVID-19 has significantly hindered national TB responses. Additionally, it has elevated and created further human rights related barriers to access. However, it has also presented us with opportunities. We must elevate national bidirectional efforts in TB/COVID prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. This must be leveraged to realize an effective TB vaccine by 2025. We must similarly remember that in many countries TB communities were at the front line of the COVID-19 response. Therefore, investments in building TB communities, are critical for ending the TB response. Clearly, the TB community is essential in COVID-19 recovery and in future pandemic preparedness for the pandemic that comes next – which is expected to again to be airborne. Therefore, any investment, policy, or program in COVID recovery or pandemic preparedness – must work to strengthen TB affected communities and civil society. We implore donors and partners to scale up ambition and risk appetite and commend the efforts of TB REACH, the Introducing New Tools Project, and efforts for Innovative Financing. We offer concern at the uncertain funding future of TB REACH and hope to see this immediately remedied. We do though look forward to continued collaboration with the New Tools, Diagnostics, and Drugs Working Groups in advancing TB innovation.
We now have an even more “Deadly Divide” between TB commitments and realities than when we released our report on UNHLM progress in 2020. We applaud the ambition of the Global Plan 2023-2030 but do not underestimate the challenge to close the TB financing gap given the estimated need to have close to 250 billion in investment between 2023-2030. We reiterate our call for an equitable disease split from the Global Fund. The campaign we launch –TB33- is about equity. It is about justice. And about recognizing that people affected by TB must be as valued as those affected by other infectious diseases. With this in mind, we further call on the Global Fund to ensure that it closes the funding gap for TB, for TB communities and to overcome the human rights barriers inhibiting TB responses.
We recognize the important contribution of the Finding the Missing People with TB Strategic Initiative to Challenge Facility for Civil Society. But we lament that the Challenge Facility is not supported by the Community Rights and Gender Strategic Initiative. While TB is eligible for some support under the CRG SI, the reality is that this Strategic Initiative is currently inadequate for TB communities. In 2020 Deadly Divide Report we called on the Global Fund CRG SI to directly support Challenge Facility. We note during C19RM, the Stop TB Partnership provided a dedicated support package to TB communities to ensure engagement in Global Fund processes. This was a first for TB communities and we hope that the Partnership can continue this support for TB partners in all Global Fund processes going forward and reiterates that this is the best mechanism for investing in TB communities. During NFM4, we hope the wishes of the TB community can be recognized – and the CRG / Community Engagement SI can once again help to strengthen TB communities through the Challenge Facility mechanism.
Challenge Facility for Civil Society round 10 is currently underway. We want to celebrate the achievement of USD 7.5 million for communities, demand generation, capacity building and accountability. Round 11 is expected to be even larger. We have seen communities take their rightful place on Country Coordinating Mechanisms, as Global Fund Sub -recipients and Principal Recipients – none of which would be possible without this mechanism. Thank you to USAID for embracing the vision of communities and working to empower us as agents of change – we appreciate your ongoing support. Thank you, Global Fund, as co-supporter and we hope you can significantly scale up support of this initiative. And, as we mentioned above, we hope that the Global Fund will continue to be an even greater champion of the Challenge Facility. We extend similar sentiments for national Stop TB Partnerships. We applaud the enhanced coordination between Challenge Facility grantees and national Stop TB Partnerships. And, we hope to hear a commitment from donors to ensure national Stop TB Partnership platforms are sustainably funded in all TB high burden countries.
We recall that during 34th Board Meeting our friends from France and Canada committed to exploring how they can further engage with the Challenge Facility for Civil Society. We want to understand how this has progressed and how we can obtain your support – to ensure more than 30% of community need is met – that more grants can be awarded, and more countries are eligible. We want to ensure that all High Burden Countries can be supported to complete TB CRG Assessments, develop, and implement costed TB CRG Action Plans, and institute community- led monitoring for accountability. The Challenge Facility is after all the only mechanism that is proven to work for TB communities. We look forward to continuing to develop partnerships along our shared path to ending TB.
As representative delegations we look forward to playing a leading role in critical events in the year ahead. We want to see a fully funded Global Fund. We note community estimates far exceed the USD 18 billion replenishment ask – and the Global Plan modelling indicates that a far great figure is required. We believe without a fully funded Global Fund, lives will be lost and we will not achieve the future of global health solidarity that we all want to see. We look forward to again mobilizing communities, together with National Stop TB Partnerships, Challenge Facility grantees and other partners, in developing an updated community Deadly Divide report of progress and priorities for the UNHLM on TB in 2023. We hope that this can be of great utility for the 2023 UNHLM Community Advisory Panel – which we hope to see formed and funded in the coming months. We know that effective advocacy, engagement, visibility and political will requires investment in a global and national TB advocacy agendas- and call on donors to ensure that STP NGO and Community Delegations are fully funded to meaningfully impact this advocacy opportunity.
We thank the Stop TB Partnership Secretariat and Board for creating space for TB affected communities and civil society. This is a model that shows leadership by example. Together we can end this epidemic. Together we can realize a world without TB.