Universal Access to Tuberculosis Treatment, at Least $22 Billion in Global Response Key to Combat Killer Disease, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Multi-stakeholder Hearing
Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, to the Multi-stakeholder Hearing on Tuberculosis in preparation for the United Nations General Assembly high-level meeting on Tuberculosis, in New York today:
I thank the President of the General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi, for convening us here today, on this important occasion.
Over the last decades we have seen extraordinary progress in our fight against tuberculosis. We have saved 74 million lives through our global response efforts since 2000. In research and innovation, we have 12 new diagnostic tests and safer, more effective and time efficient treatment options. We have even broken through complex forms of drug-resistant tuberculosis, as we strive to provide treatment for all.
Yet despite such milestones, tuberculosis continues to be a one of the biggest infectious disease killers in the world. Over 10.5 million people fell sick and an estimated 1.6 million died in 2021 alone. And it is now the leading cause of death for people with HIV.
We meet at a deeply challenging moment for global health following reversals and deteriorating trends. The last couple of years have been marked by epidemics colliding with pandemics, armed conflicts, economic crises and climate disasters — all of which have an impact on health, along with food insecurity, poverty, and unequal access to services.
Our fight against tuberculosis is not only about global health governance; it is about sustainable development itself. The tuberculosis epidemic is driven by both health and social determinants, such as poverty, undernutrition and HIV. The disease disproportionately affects the most vulnerable all countries.
Our success against this preventable and curable disease depends on our ability to work across sectors, and eliminate economic distress, vulnerability, marginalization and stigma often faced by those affected by tuberculosis. This requires international stewardship and action across all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the national level.
In the face of this urgent need, the second United Nations high-level meeting on tuberculosis is a unique opportunity to fast-track progress and revitalize commitments. As presented in the report before you today, the time to act is now.
We urgently need to accelerate progress towards universal access to tuberculosis services in both high- and low-burden countries. By 2027, all people with tuberculosis should to have access to health and social benefits packages so they do not have to endure financial hardship. One hundred per cent of people diagnosed with tuberculosis should have access to WHO-recommended rapid diagnostics and quality-assured treatment.
For this, we need to invest in a global tuberculosis response with at least $22 billion. In addition, with $5 billion a year into TB research and innovation, we can develop safe and effective tuberculosis vaccines and simple one-stop-shops for quality tests and care. This is the game changer we need.
This September, Heads of State will meet at a defining moment for both health and the SDGs. At three separate high-level meetings we will discuss universal health care, pandemic prevention and response, and how to overhaul our efforts on the tuberculosis epidemic. All of this is framed within the larger picture of the SDG Summit — our call to make sure we deliver to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, while securing a safer, more sustainable and prosperous future for people and planet.
The high-level meeting on tuberculosis will be a critical opportunity to make concrete gains. We need each and every Member State to commit to: adequate and sustainable finance for TB response so that all have access to quality care; investing in research and development so that medical countermeasures are affordable, accessible and appropriate, including vaccines, tests and medicines that can be easily deployed in low-resource settings; eliminate stigma and discriminatory practices that in too many places contribute to barriers against equitable public health responses. This is what success will look like.
This is how we leave no one behind. But we cannot do this top down. It’s clear that delivering on the SDGs requires building resilient communities from the bottom up. This means working closely with civil society, affected communities and the private sector. It means strengthening public–private partnerships nationally and globally — and where necessary, creating new ones. It also means ensuring that health strategies address the many determinants of TB, including poverty and undernutrition.
Uniting around tuberculosis response provides a critical opportunity for us to build health systems that are capable of not only preventing and treating tuberculosis, but also of protecting the broader health and well-being of entire communities. We have seen this in action during the COVID-19 pandemic, with national TB programmes and systems leveraging support to the COVID response — a great example of how we can build stronger pandemic preparedness systems.
Progress on the TB crisis is progress on the SDGs. By averting TB-related financial hardship and preventing the development of the disease in vulnerable groups, we are helping to diminish inequities between communities. As we scale this up at the global level, we are helping to diminish inequities between countries.
And this is why we are here. We are here to listen to one another. I see huge potential in listening to the voices of experts, communities and survivors present in the room today. Tuberculosis survivors and affected communities need to be heard — they are our greatest allies in the fight to end the tuberculosis epidemic. Hearing these stories and learning from these lessons can help us end TB.
I hope that today’s discussion can help shape a united approach and form the foundation of our collective asks from world leaders at the multilateral level. The United Nations stands with you today and is committed to working with all partners to end tuberculosis once and for all. Let’s make it happen — together.