As population increases – and as movement and migrations also increases – South-West Asia needs effective and sustainable mechanisms to coordinate the provision of quality Tuberculosis (TB) prevention and care, and treatment, across borders. This includes early diagnosis, uninterrupted treatment and patient support. These were the main points agreed upon at a gathering of TB experts from a group of neighbouring countries from the region which was recently held in Tehran.
Iran – along with its neighbours – including Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey are experiencing considerable population movements across their borders due to cultural, religious, medical and economic reasons. While such movements bring benefits, they also aid the movement of deadly diseases like TB.
TB and Multi-Drug-Resistant (MDR) TB are identified as public health threats in this geographical area. The countries met – with the support of the United Nations – to find ways of developing sustainable control and care services. But such an endeavor will need both political commitment and technical support to get it off the ground.
With this aim in mind, during 30 April to 2 May, the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean in collaborated with the Government of Islamic Republic of Iran hosted a three-day workshop entitled “Inter-Regional workshop for cross-border TB control and care” in Tehran.
The objective of the workshop was to:
- Familiarize participants with the cross border TB control and care issues;
- Review the current situation of the countries and regions and identify opportunities as well as points of entries for cross border TB control and care;
- Develop a joint plan of action for establishing across border collaboration;
- Adopt required tools and identifying resources for cross border TB control and care; and
- Clarify IHR mechanisms in support of TB control cross border.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Mohammad Mehdi Gouya, Director General of Center for Disease Control emphasized that participants had gathered in Tehran to develop an operational joint plan for establishing the required cross-border collaboration.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Dr. Jihane Tawilah, WHO Representative in Iran said: “No country alone can halt TB and a global commitment and collaboration should be strengthened and sustained.” She added: “This is the reason for our meeting. TB does cross borders. We know that a country alone cannot face TB. I hope that this workshop facilitates the first step in developing an exemplary inter-regional and cross-border collaboration for managing TB more effectively than before.”
Dr. Mohammed Abdel Aziz, WHO’s TB Regional Advisor said: “Health is a public good as it concerns all of us. There is no single person, institution or organization who can do the work alone; it is everyone’s responsibility. Hence we have to work together hand-in-hand in a collaborative and coordinated way to fulfill our mission.”
Also speaking at the event was the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Gary Lewis who said: “While in 1990, Iran was troubled with 4.5 persons per hundred thousand who were dying of TB, this number has now decreased to just under 3 persons per hundred thousand. In partnership with UNDP, the Government of Islamic Republic of Iran has mobilized resources from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund) to fill implementation gaps in the national TB control response. This work began in 2008. Since then, it has contributed to better case detection and treatment as well as better public awareness of the disease.”
“UNDP extends strong support towards initiatives on the cross-border issues and we are looking forward to see the joint plan of action for establishing cross-border collaboration as one of the outcomes of this workshop for any necessary support” said Mr. Lewis.