02/05/2015 05:42 EST | Updated 04/07/2015 05:59 EDT

Fighting Tuberculosis Is Everyone's Responsibility

How much do you know about tuberculosis (TB)? Did you know that more than nine million people around the world become ill with TB every year? One-third of these people fail to get a diagnosis or treatment -- and 1.4 million die from this curable disease every year. Every untreated person runs the risk of infecting many more people.

Thankfully, we do have a cure for tuberculosis. And we have a way of reaching the most vulnerable, who live in areas with limited or non-existent TB care. TB REACH is a global initiative, launched in 2010, largely thanks to a grant from Canada.

TB REACH has had great success in finding and diagnosing cases of tuberculosis in the most vulnerable, hardest to reach regions of the world. Since its inception in 2010, the TB REACH initiative has provided over US $90 million to 142 projects worldwide in 46 countries. Its mission is to only fund projects under $1 million, thus providing direct assistance to communities with little or no access to basic tuberculosis services. TB REACH uses innovative technologies and approaches to detect and treat tuberculosis, including mobile testing vans in remote rural areas. The effects are promising -- preliminary results of the first wave of funding shows an average 33 per cent increase in case detection, while some have seen increases of more than 100 per cent.

As a founding partner and the only major donor, Canada committed to the Stop TB Partnership, and contributed a five-year grant of $120 million to the TB REACH initiative in 2010. Unfortunately, TB REACH is now under threat. New Democrats are alarmed by indications that the Canadian government has decided not to renew its funding to TB REACH past 2016. We want Canada to maintain its pledge, which will encourage other donors to support this initiative. Canada must continue its support of TB REACH so that the initiative can pursue its important work to eradicate this disease.

The Stop TB Partnership is actively seeking new donors to support the initiative. New donors would be an immense boost to TB REACH -- but Canada cannot cut off its support at such a crucial time.

I am asking the government to demonstrate real leadership by committing $120 million over the five years for the 2015-2020 period. Along with encouraging new donors to support TB REACH, this would ensure the initiative can continue its life-saving work.

Recently, along with political representatives spanning five continents, I signed the Barcelona Declaration of the inaugural Global TB Summit, and I encourage all parliamentarians to do the same. Together, we can beat TB.

TB is a global disease that does not know borders. We know that TB is present here in Canada, especially in vulnerable communities. Fighting TB is everyone's responsibility. It is time for Canada to renew its support to TB REACH.


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