H.E. Ahmed Naseem
Minister of Health of the Republic of Maldives,
at the High-level Meeting on the Fight Against Tuberculosis
22 September 2023, 10:00am
We meet today to undertake a critical review of our collective will and priorities in ending a concerning global epidemic, Tuberculosis, by the year 2030. TB is a preventable and curable disease- however, many continue to suffer. The Southeast Asian Region, home to almost a quarter of the global population, accounts for close to 50% of new Tuberculosis cases and deaths every year.
Despite such challenging circumstances, the efforts of WHO in the South-East Asian Region have been extremely commendable – particularly the initiative to develop the Gandhinagar Declaration, in which all 11 member states committed to end TB by 2030. Essentially, the Gandhinagar Declaration calls for the use of science and technology in creating equitable access to TB services extended to all cultures and demographics, based on the principles of human rights and through an integrated primary healthcare approach.
The Maldives has made important contributions to the regional and global efforts in combating TB. We are proud to have been among the first five countries to achieve significant milestones in case detection and cure rates, and successfully maintain very low rates in TB prevalence.
Equity in healthcare has been the cornerstone of our approach. We extend equitable access to treatment to all patients diagnosed with TB, and this treatment is provided free of cost for all residents, irrespective of nationality. Close monitoring of patients throughout their treatment journey is a crucial aspect of our comprehensive approach.
To further strengthen our efforts by leveraging advanced technologies, we have substantially increased our diagnostic capacity. This enhancement has not only improved early detection but has also streamlined treatment and support services for people with TB across the country.
The Maldives has set out an ambitious plan and our aspiration is clear: to end TB in the Maldives by the year 2025, way ahead of the 2030 global target. This goal is a promise to our people and a testament to our unwavering commitment to the global fight against TB.
In our pursuit of a TB-free Maldives, we pledge to leave no one behind. By the end of 2024, we aim to have substantial evidence to showcase our progress, with the declaration of at least 100 islands as TB-free.
To achieve these goals, we are steadfastly integrating TB prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment into our primary healthcare model. By embedding TB prevention services into our existing healthcare structure, we are ensuring that TB is addressed comprehensively and effectively.
We cannot stress enough the importance of receiving sustainable funding for running the last mile. Hence, we urge governments and international funding organizations alike to increase and sustain their investments in TB control efforts. This is especially the case for small state countries with very low burden who are on the verge of ending TB – let’s not forget that small size of the country does not mean that our issues are less complex.
Moreover, cross-border collaboration is equally essential, given the mobility of people between neighbouring countries, which can facilitate the spread of TB. Cooperation and information-sharing are vital in combating this disease effectively, because this disease knows no borders.
In conclusion, Excellencies, the Maldives reiterates its commitment to investing in TB control to ensure that no individual suffers from catastrophic costs, disabilities, or long-term socio-economic consequences due to TB. We must act collectively and decisively to eliminate this disease and protect the health and well-being of our global community. Together, we can achieve a world free from the burden of tuberculosis.
I thank you.