WHO Calls for Action on World TB Day: Dr Tereza Kasaeva Speaks

Dear friends, colleagues and partners

As we come together to commemorate World Tuberculosis Day, we stand in solidarity with the millions of people who fall ill with TB each year and we pay tribute to the millions who have lost their lives from this preventable and curable disease. We would like to salute all the health workers at the forefront of the fight to end TB and other diseases, including communities, civil society, and advocates, national TB programmes, partners and donors for their tireless dedication and support to the fight to end TB.

TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers. Each day, close to 4400 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.

While, global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 74 million lives since the year 2000, the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with conflict, other crises and socioeconomic inequities, has reversed years of progress made in the fight to end TB. This has placed an even heavier burden on those affected, especially the most vulnerable.

For the first time in over a decade, WHO reported that estimated TB incidence and deaths have increased. Actions and investments still fall far short of those needed to end the TB epidemic.

2023 is a pivotal year to push forward the agenda towards ending TB, as there are several high-level opportunities to raise visibility, increase political commitment, and enhance investments for the TB response.

The theme of World TB Day 2023 – ‘Yes! We can end TB!’ – reflects this, and aims to inspire hope and encourage high-level leadership, increased investments, faster uptake of new WHO recommendations, adoption of innovations, accelerated action, and multisectoral collaboration to combat the TB epidemic.

On World TB Day, WHO is calling for action on several fronts to ensure that the commitments made to end TB are achieved:

· First, we would like to call for high-level leadership and advocacy. Heads of State will come together to deliberate on accelerating efforts to end TB, for the second time at the 2023 UN High Level Meeting on TB at the General Assembly in September. The prioritization of TB in the agenda of Heads of State and other leaders provides strong impetus to step up progress against this ancient disease. Two other UN high level meetings will be held at the same time focusing on Universal Health Coverage and pandemic preparedness. There are clear linkages between the agendas of ending tuberculosis, UHC, and pandemic preparedness and response. We urge highest level participation and civil society engagement in the UN High Level Meetings. WHO’s Director-General announced this week the expanded term and focus of his Flagship Initiative for 2023-2027. The initiative features new targets bring together countries and stakeholders to redouble efforts to ensure universal access to prevention, care and the latest tools and technologies to combat TB, on the road to Universal Health Coverage.

· Second, we are calling for an urgent increase in domestic and international investments to close critical funding gaps to ensure universal access to TB care for research. More investments towards supporting the rollout of WHO-recommended TB preventive treatment options, shorter TB treatment regimens, rapid molecular diagnostics and tests for TB infection, and other innovations and digital tools will lead to improvements in health outcomes and save millions of lives. Importantly, investments in research and innovation are vital to fast-track efforts to reach the end TB targets. In particular WHO is building on lessons learned during the COVID pandemic and linked platforms to advance research on new TB vaccines. A new TB Vaccine Accelerator Council was announced by the WHO Director-General in January this year to facilitate the licensing and use of effective novel tuberculosis vaccines, catalysing strategic alignment between funders, global agencies, governments, and end users in identifying and overcoming barriers to vaccine development.

· Third, we are calling on governments and other stakeholders to accelerate the implementation of the latest WHO guidance and rapidly roll out new tools to benefit those ill with TB. WHO has issued a call to action on World TB Day with partners urging Member States to accelerate the rollout of new WHO-recommended shorter all-oral treatment regimens for drug-resistant TB.

· Fourth, we are putting the spotlight on the importance of tackling health inequalities to ensure Health for All. People with TB are among the most marginalized and vulnerable, facing barriers in accessing care and stigma and discrimination. WHO is calling for global action to address health inequities for people with TB and other diseases.

· Fifth, ending TB requires concerted action by all sectors to address the key drivers of the TB epidemic. Poverty, undernourishment, poor living and working conditions, among others, affect how people fall ill, develop TB and cope with the demands of treatment (including medical, financial and social), and influence the health outcomes they face. Thus, progress in combating TB and its drivers cannot be achieved by the health system alone. WHO is therefore calling for firm political commitment at the highest level, strong multisectoral collaboration (beyond health), and an effective accountability system.

All these actions can help fast-track the TB response saving millions of lives.

Dear friends, as we join forces this World TB Day with hopes for a brighter world free of TB, we at WHO collectively recommit to keep the promises made to the millions affected by TB each year – despite any hardships, challenges or crises that come our way.

We cannot falter in our commitment till we reach and save every person, family and community impacted by this deadly disease. No more excuses and delays – in prioritizing and investing to end one of the world’s top infectious killers.

Together, we can end TB!

Thank you.

Dr Tereza Kasaeva


Global TB Programme

World Health Organization

WHO World TB Day Online Talk Show

Over 150 participants joined the World Health Organization (WHO) Online Talk Show to commemorate World TB Day on 22 March at 14:00H CET. The high level event put the spotlight on the theme ‘Yes! We can end TB!’ with the aim of inspiring hope and encouraging high-level leadership, increased investments, faster uptake of new WHO recommendations, adoption of innovations, accelerated action, and multisectoral collaboration to combat the TB epidemic.

The Talk Show was opened by WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who announced the expanded scope of the Flagship Initiative on tuberculosis over the period 2023 to 2027 to support fast-tracking progress towards ending TB and achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030. The WHO DG Flagship Initiative features new targets for the period and an intensified focus on universal access to quality TB prevention and care, on advancing research especially for new vaccines, strengthening multisectoral engagement and accountability to address the key drivers of the epidemic and on building linkages with the agendas of universal health coverage, pandemic preparedness and AMR.

This was followed by a keynote written statement from Her Excellency Professor Peng Liyuan, First Lady of the People’s Republic of China and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Hon. Ambassador Mr CHEN Xu, Permanent Representative of the China Mission to the UN delivered the statement on her behalf.

Caroline Mburu a young student, TB survivor and advocate from Nairobi Kenya, set the scene for the event, passionately sharing her story of illness, stigma and recovery, and made a strong call for accelerating the response to end TB

Key speakers who spoke at the high level panels included, Health Ministers, WHO Regional Directors, Heads of Agencies, TB survivor, civil society and partners.

WHO also issued a call to action with partners urging Member States to accelerate the rollout of new WHO-recommended shorter all-oral treatment regimens for drug-resistant TB.

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