Pakistan — A TB Success Story in Jeopardy

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Two countries we don’t often hear about in relation to TB, Pakistan and Afghanistan, were quite prominent in the discussions here in Rio at the Stop TB Partnership Forum.

Their ministers of health were here and the minister from Afghanistan spoke at the Tuesday morning plenary (be sure to watch the video online!). He noted that almost 70 percent of Afghanistan’s notified TB cases are women.

In fact, both countries are among the 22 countries most burdened by TB, and they have received assistance to address TB from both USAID and the Global Fund.

In Pakistan, major conduits of Global Fund resources include US-based international aid groups, such as Mercy Corps.  Mercy Corps has, using Global Fund resources, partnered with the private sector on a broad TB public education campaign and greatly expanded the case detection rate.  Without the Global Fund this progress would not have been possible.

The Global Fund has slated 25% cuts for its latest grants, including for the TB program in Pakistan, and this cut will affect Pakistan’s ability to cope with a serious shortage of TB drugs.

I had a chance to speak with the Minister of Health of Pakistan, Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani, about the dangerous gap in contributions to the Global Fund:

INTERVIEW:

Global Center Senior Program Policy Officer, David Bryden
MOH of Pakistan, Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani, Federal Minister for Health
March 25, 2009

David Bryden:
It’s a pleasure to talk to you about the success about the fight against tuberculosis in Pakistan. I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit more and how you see this work continuing especially with the economic challenges facing the world today.

Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani:
Well, first of all let me tell you that we strongly believe in a public private partnership and that’s why of the total budget what we have for tuberculosis 40% of that budget is going to a private sector, and we are already achieving the goals of the MDGs which we are supposed to achieve by 2015. We are right on track to achieve those goals, but I will say again for the United States they should not curtail their funds for the health sector.

David Bryden:
What can we say about tuberculosis in Pakistan?

Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani:
Well you know that everyone knows that tuberculosis is found in places of poor people; it’s mostly the poor people who are affected by tuberculosis; there was a time before the year 2000 when treatment average in Pakistan was only 5% and now we are at 80%, so that is a great success particularly on TB.

David Bryden:
And this is with Pakistan’s own efforts, but we can say some external aid has been helpful to some extent?

Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani:
Well, let me say Pakistan started its own initiative in 2000 to cure TB and started its own funding by the National TB Program, then USAID got involved in 2003 at that time by giving assistance of 2 million dollars; then these other partners got involved and they are helping especially USAID and Stop TB is helping us, and the Global Fund of course.

David Bryden:
My understanding is that the Global Fund grant could be cut by 25% in 2012, with the cuts to round 8 grants, so this is something concerning and of course round 9, which is in jeopardy, are you applying for TB funding through round 9?

Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani:
Yes, and if there will be shortage of funds for round 9 it will be a problem. I mean this is the time that the funds should not be stopped because this will drag us backwards. If the funds stop at this moment that will be bad, since many people are not going to be able to be treated if round 9 is stopped.

David Bryden:
Do you see a connection between the economic development and the success on health including TB in the sense of people who are sick lose productive time at work and so on?

Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani:
I think health is directly connected to poverty. Health is the main cause of the poverty especially in Pakistan. If the person who is providing the food for the family gets sick and gets a communicable or non communicable disease then they must stop working. He is the one who is providing the food for 7 -10 people so they are involved too because there is no food. The 7- 10 people are being affected by the one person getting sick. So health is directly connected with poverty

David Bryden:
Well good, any other messages you would want to convey to people living in the United States concerned about these diseases?

Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani:
I would like to commend the people who have been helping and the people from the world who have been helping Pakistan with disease. As well I request them to continue their support because as they say “health is wealth”; health is the most important significant part of your life; they should not stop the aid since we have already achieved so much.

David Bryden:
And can we say that health is a sector and area in which civil society and government can come together and collaborate ?

Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani:
Exactly, this is the sector the health sector and social sector where we all can get together and join hands and to help the world to help Pakistan and to help other countries who really need help at this time. The United States’ image in Muslim world can only improve if they keep supporting us with healthcare.

David Bryden:
What is the United States image like in Pakistan? Sometimes it isn’t always so good?

Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani:
Well it is not that good sometimes, of course, but if the US continues to help support the health sector the image will improve a lot

David Bryden:
This could be a diplomatic mechanism for the United States to consider ?

Mir Aijaz Hussain Jakhrani:
Exactly, since any help and especially with the health sector would be a great contribution to Pakistan and the people of Pakistan will then think highly of the United States.

2 thoughts on “Pakistan — A TB Success Story in Jeopardy

  1. Pingback: President Obama and US Partnership with Muslim Countries « Science Speaks: HIV & TB News

  2. TARIQ

    DEAR SIR,

    MY NAME IS TARIQ MEHMOOD I M FROM PAKISTAN LIVING IN DISTT BARKHAN DEAR SIR I HAHE WORKED WITHE INTERNATIONAL NGO MERCY CORPS FOR TWO YEARS ON T.B DoTT PROGRAMME. THAT TIME HERE IN MY DISTRICT THERE WERE 600 HUNDRED POSITIVE CASES OF T.B PACIENTS NOW MAY BE ITS DUBLE OR TRIPPLED.THE PROJECT WAS COMPLETED BUT UNFORTUNATLY WITHOUT ACHIVING THEIR GOAL. NOW I AM WORKING WITH LOCAL NGO AND WE ARE SEEKIN GRANTS FOR T.B .PLEASE HELP US OR SUGEST US WHAT TO DO. I SHALL BE WAITTING FOR YOUR REPLY.

    THANKS

    YOURS TARIQ MEHMOOD

    MOBILE NO- 92-03366475521

    Reply

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