Back From Africa: Update on Parliamentary Delegations to Burundi, Rwanda and Ethiopia

Ashton Wingate — May 11, 2011 – 2:15 pm

The allocation of funds by elected officials of donor governments to fight tuberculosis (TB) is integral in helping those suffering around the world. One way ACTION has had success in turning members of Parliament (MPs) into TB champions is through parliamentary delegations where MPs get to see firsthand not only the blight that TB creates around the world, but also some of the most effective programs currently addressing TB.  Recently, our partners from Canada, the U.K., and France had the opportunity to lead parliamentary delegations to Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Burundi — countries all having a high burden of TB.

In late February, RESULTS Canada led a delegation of both liberal and conservative members of their Parliament as well as a member of the Canadian Senate to Ethiopia. This delegation served as the first introduction to TB for the aforementioned government officials and gave them firsthand experience with the ravages of TB on the ground. While in Ethiopia, members of the delegation were able to discuss the strengths and challenges of current health programs. The Assistant to the Minister of Health in Ethiopia expressed to the delegation the importance of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria both globally, and particularly in his home country. To highlight The Global Fund’s impact in-country, the delegation visited a hospital where they viewed the TB and MDR-TB wards. In these wards, the Global Fund supports the procurement of microscopes for diagnosis and TB drugs for treatment, as well as the hospital’s administration cost. Members of the delegation were also able to see the strong collaborative TB-HIV work going on coupled with the stretched capacity of community health centers which really illustrated the need for their continued support. After seeing the conditions on the ground and engaging with patients, activists, and health workers, delegation members are now collaborating with RESULTS Canada to generate more awareness about issues related to TB.

Around the same time of RESULTS Canada’s trip to Ethiopia, ACTION partner, RESULTS U.K., led a delegation of MPs to Rwanda. Rwanda has had some success tackling TB-HIV co-infection, and RESULTS U.K. felt it would be especially helpful for government officials to observe Rwanda’s significant progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, due in part to U.K. funding. While in Rwanda, MPs discussed Rwanda’s development roadmap to tackle HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, and nutrition and food security. Rwanda’s Minister of Health highlighted that very few donors were willing to make long-term contributions to see this roadmap through to completion. He continued to express that Rwanda cannot afford to sustain TB-HIV interventions without the support of external aid from donor countries. Delegation members were also taken to a health center where they saw the impact of integrating TB and HIV screening within maternal health programs and the tremendous cost savings and efficiency that can be achieved by this method. With shorter drug treatment regimens on the horizon and new diagnostic techniques like GeneXpert, MPs walked away with a sense that now is the time to further invest in the fight against TB.

Then in early March, ACTION partners in France, AIDES and Global Health Advocates France, led a parliamentary delegation to Burundi. Despite being one of the largest contributors to multilateral institutions like the Global Fund, officials from both majority and opposition parties were not fully aware of the vast effect France’s contributions had on the ground. During the delegation, it was important to show the MPs the role France has played as a global donor and showcase how France’s role as a donor translates to lives saved on the ground. In addition, MPs saw firsthand the deadly combination of TB-HIV co-infection and its effect on the ever-expanding human resource crisis within Burundi. As a result of this trip, AIDES and GHA France were able to strengthen their MPs commitments to support the fight against TB and HIV/AIDS.

We congratulate our partners in Canada, France, and the U.K. on their successful delegation trips and look forward to hearing more about the great work of our partners. Stay tuned next month to hear about RESULTS Educational Fund’s recent congressional delegation to Ethiopia.