Closing of interactive civil society hearing in preparation of the high-level meeting on the fight against tuberculosis

4 June 2018

– As delivered –

Closing statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at the interactive civil society hearing in preparation of the high-level meeting on the fight against tuberculosis

 

 

Excellencies, dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

We have come to the end of today’s Hearing.

This morning you were challenged to bring ideas, experiences and solutions to the table. And you did.

You were challenged to make a loud and united call for action. And you did.

And you also did something else, very important: you showed us all the human side, to tuberculosis.

We heard about, not just the data and the facts, but also the impact of this disease on people.

And, I have to say, a lot of it was not easy to listen to. It involved stories of real pain – and of real suffering.

For example, 12-year old Joyce, from Kenya. She contracted multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. And the equipment needed, to keep her alive, stopped working during a power failure. Not only was her death a tragedy for her family – but they have also found themselves in debt, trying to pay back the hospital bills.

We heard from Melquiades – a young man from Peru. His parents were forced to choose between educating his siblings, or paying for his treatment. And, for a while, a lack of infrastructure meant his family had to carry him to hospital, on a blanket.

Finally, Carol, from Zambia, told us her own story. After surviving tuberculosis, she dedicated her life to the eradication of this disease. And, her advocacy has had an impact. The Zambian Government became the first high-burden country to invest in the Global Fund.

So, these stories – and many others, told today – are very powerful.

And, what did we learn from them?

Personally, I took away the following messages:

First, on people.

This disease might not make headline news – but we cannot forget the devastating impact it still has, on the lives of people, around the world.

Second, on vulnerability.

What we heard today is that tuberculosis does not pose the same risk to everyone. Instead, it is often the most vulnerable who suffer. And, this can result, not only in the tragic loss of life – but also crippling debt.

And third, on action.

Because tuberculosis is not inevitable. It can be cured. It can be prevented. And, if there is one thing to take away from today’s meeting, it is that much more action is needed.

And, many of you gave ideas on what this action could look like.

You spoke about the type of funding needed.

…About the kind of support networks, which can help families and communities.

…About the campaigns and advocacy, which have led to results in the past.

…About preventive practices and policies, for healthcare workers.

…And, about the opportunities, for more public-private partnerships.

We heard many calls for action today. But I would to quote one, in particular…. because I think it sums up how urgently – and quickly – we need to act.

So, in the words of one of our participants today, Donald Tobaiwa:

“We must not ask how much it costs to end tuberculosis. We must ask how much it costs not to act.”

So, thank you all for being here – and actively participating.

Your commitments… your passion…and your stories have shone a spotlight on tuberculosis.

The high-level meeting, in September, will be a milestone, in our journey to end this disease.

And I thank you for, today, bringing us one small – but significant – step closer to this goal.