APPG TB meeting to discuss childhood TB

On Wednesday 21st March 2012, the APPG on Global TB held a meeting to mark World TB Day (24th March) in the houses of parliament with parliamentarians and leading TB experts to discuss the neglected issue of childhood tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a prominent killer of children worldwide, yet it remains a neglected issue. Children have weak immune systems, making them prime targets for TB and a significant number (estimated 500,000) become sick with the disease and 70,000 die each year. There are substantial challenges in addressing childhood TB and the meeting sought to highlight what could be done to address them.

Parliamentarians and stakeholders in attendance heard from speakers including:

• Andrew George MP, Chair, APPG on Global TB – welcome and introduction
• Dr Emma Huitric, Programme Officer,European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) – Overview of childhood TB in the European Union
• Michael Gwaba, Programme Manager, Community Initiative for Tuberculosis and Malaria (CITAM) – What is needed to begin to tackle childhood TB?
• Dr Haileysus Getahun, Medical Officer, World Health Organisation (WHO) – What steps are the World Health Organisation (WHO) taking to focus attention on this issue?
• Tony Cunningham MP, Shadow Minister for International Development – The importance of addressing childhood TB, and TB more broadly

Key points discussed

Dr Getahun outlined the estimated figures of prevalence and death rates from tuberculosis in children and that it was the first time the WHO produced data on estimated burden of TB in children. He further highlighted that an Action Plan would be published later in the year that will set out specific steps that need to be taken to tackle this issue.

The discussions that followed with stakeholders, speakers and parliamentarians focused on the various challenges in tackling childhood TB. Throughout the meeting, the role of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was highlighted as a critical funding mechanism to address TB in both children and adults. Stakeholders stressed the importance that the fund has the resources it needs to continue to tackle TB, AIDS and malaria.

Creating the required political will to tackle TB was also raised by MSF as an important point, posing the question how we create the political will? Andrew George responded by saying that it is a constant challenge, but that it is key that evidence based messages are appropriately targeted and the positive progress that is being made is at the forefront to show that investments made are getting a return, with the caveat that challenges still remain. He also said that it was important to suggest ways those challenges can be addressed and to stress to parliamentarians that while the challenge is significant they can make a huge difference.