Delhi “End TB Summit” Statement of Action adoption speech

14 March 2018, New Delhi, India

Excellencies, distinguished participants and esteemed partners,

I sincerely congratulate the Region’s Member States for agreeing on the Statement of Action and adopting it this morning.

Their Statement asserts a very public commitment to take forward last year’s Delhi Call for Action and intensify progress towards ending TB by 2030. That commitment is testament to the momentum our Region – the most TB-affected Region in the world – has marshaled in recent years. More than that, it is testament to where our Region is headed and the ground-breaking change we are striving to achieve.

It is a document that is of great significance. WHO South-East Asia Region has 48% of the world’s TB cases and 40% of the world’s TB deaths. It is a Region where TB is the leading cause of death and lost productive years in the crucial 15-49 year age group. And it is a Region where TB is the catalyst of vicious, life-defining poverty for millions.

But the issue goes beyond numbers. As you appreciate, integral to my role is meeting and engaging with persons suffering TB. Men. Women. Children. Older persons. Speaking with the widows and widowers of TB victims. Talking to young men and women who should be in their prime, but who are out of work and face a lifetime of poverty due to their affliction. This morning we heard the agony of TB-affected persons, one from India and one from Indonesia. Their agony cannot continue.

Excellencies and partners,

I take this opportunity to emphasize how the Statement adopted by our Member States gives shape to our momentum and aspiration to End TB, and does so by setting out a series of strategic priorities. Those priorities will dominate TB-related activities in each of the Region’s countries over the coming year, and will define the vigor and pace of our progress.

Very briefly, the priorities – as presented by the Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Swarup Sarkar – include establishing strong leadership of TB programmes at the national level; increasing budgetary and human resource allocations to TB programmes from domestic and global sources; enabling each and every TB patient to access the best possible care available; and supplementing medical care for TB with social and financial protection.

For persons suffering TB the impact will be immediate and immense. In many cases it will be life-saving. So I once again congratulate the Region’s Member States, their ministers of health and representatives, for having the courage and conviction needed to produce and adopt such a substantial document.

Nevertheless, as much as the Statement is an expression of Member States’ commitment and intent, it is also an expression of partnership and solidarity – of the responsibility and accountability we have to one another, and the mutual aid that must – necessarily – be part of our mission to End TB.

As the Statement makes clear, that begins with WHO and our obligations to each of the South-East Asia Region’s Member States. So with that in mind, Dear Excellencies and representatives, I will be as direct as possible: I offer my full and unflagging support. As you know, the battle against TB is one of my Flagship Priority Areas, and I intend on backing you at every difficult, testing, inspiring and – ultimately – triumphant step of the way.

That means providing you cutting-edge technical assistance as and when requested. It means convening platforms and creating opportunities to share experience and innovative ideas. And it means working with national and international partners to highlight opportunities for support, as well as funding gaps that can be overcome with rapid effect.

On that note, I take this opportunity to highlight a chance for partners to have immediate impact. Last year WHO South-East Asia conceptualized the ‘Innovation to Implementation’ fund. That fund is intended to support investment for programmatic innovation across the Region – innovation that can accelerate the progress our Member States are committed to achieving, as evidenced by their Statement of Action. While we are pleased to provide the necessary secretariat support, investment is – needless to say – required for the fund to function as intended.

Excellencies and partners,

I look forward to discussions on these and other opportunities at this afternoon’s sessions. As I’m sure you appreciate, there are many areas where we can forge immediate, path-breaking change, and I look forward to exploring them with you in further detail.

I also once again congratulate the ministers of health and representatives of each of the WHO South-East Asia Region’s Member States for developing and adopting the Statement of Action – a document that will prove instrumental to the Region-wide battle to End TB once and for all.

I also thank all ministers attending from other parts of the world, as well as our esteemed partners for their presence, encouragement and support.

Thank you very much.