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The Union demonstrates impact of child TB in Uganda to visiting parliamentarians, in advance of first ever UN HLM on TB

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Between 6-8 August, a parliamentary delegation hosted by The Union in coordination with the Global TB Caucus and other partners visited districts in Uganda that are implementing the DETECT Child Tuberculosis (TB) project - an initiative demonstrating how governments and their partners can significantly improve TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment among children. The delegation raised critical political awareness of the devastating impact of child TB, in advance of the first ever United Nations High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on TB in New York on 26 September.

The best available data show that an estimated one million children under the age of 15 become sick with TB each year. Of those, 239,000—nearly one in four—die. Children with TB rarely die when they receive standard treatment for the disease, but 90 percent of children who die from TB worldwide are left untreated - a systematic disregard for children’s rights to health.

Nine MPs from five countries* participated in the delegation, all of whom are members of the Global TB Caucus, a group of more than 2,300 parliamentarians committed to ending TB. The group visited Bunyangabu District Uganda for an overview on child TB in the region, followed by a field visit to Kibito Health Centre IV to see examples of screening, diagnosis and treatment of child TB. The trip concluded with a briefing by Dr Turyahabwe Stavia, Asst. Commissioner TB, National TB and Leprosy Programme (NTLP) and Dr Moorine Sekadde, Child TB Coordinator (NTLP).

The trip resulted in the visiting parliamentarians calling on world leaders to acknowledge the danger posed by child TB and to implement interventions that will allow them to find and treat the missing child TB cases and prevent TB in children who have been exposed to adults living with the disease. In a statement, the Hon. Joel Ssebikaali MP, Uganda, reiterated that it was a matter of urgency to "improve childhood TB case finding, treatment and prevention" in Uganda where half the population is less than 15 years old.

In addition, the delegation members called on all African heads of state to attend the UN HLM on TB and deliver on commitments necessary to end the TB epidemic. Since the World Health Organization first labelled TB a Global Health Emergency in 1993, as many as 50 million people have died from TB. TB has also become the leading infectious disease killer worldwide. One of the key priority actions being asked of the UN HLM is that heads of state commit to treating 3.5 million children with TB and preventing TB in 4 million children by 2022, in part by integrating child TB within the global child survival policy agenda. 

“Uganda is proving we can make dramatic progress against child TB. Our vision is to see every child with TB found and treated, and to prevent TB from occurring in any child who is exposed to an adult with TB,” said John Paul Dongo, acting Country Office Director, The Union Uganda.

“Ending the epidemic of TB among children requires a new era of political commitment at the highest levels of government. It is encouraging to see parliamentarian leaders supporting programmes whose role is critical to ending child TB." said Paul Jensen, Director of Policy and Strategy at The Union.

In a statement to media following the trip, The Minister of Health for Uganda, the Hon. Jane Ruth Aceng indicated that, among the key interventions for ending TB in Uganda, the DETECT TB Model should be adopted. Her statement was reproduced in full in the New Vision newspaper on 15 August 2018.

*The MPs who accompanied the delegation were: the Hon. Joel Ssebikaali (Uganda); the Hon. Edward Ssembatya (Uganda); the Hon. Fred Baseke (Uganda); the Hon. Michael Iga Bukenya (Uganda); the Hon. Beatrice Rwakimari (Uganda); the Hon. Moshoeshoe Fako (Lesotho), the Hon. Zaynab Vulu (Tanzania), the Hon. Mark Botomani (Malawi), and the Hon. Elma Dienda (Namibia).

The Union is indebted to its partners in Uganda for their support in organising the parliamentary delegation: The Global TB Caucus; Uganda TB Caucus; the Government of Uganda; and Stop TB Partnership Uganda. The Union thanks Dr Jeffrey Starke and Dr Joan Shook for their financial support for the delegation.

Read The Union’s report: Silent Epidemic: A Call to Action Against Child Tuberculosis