MEMBERS of Parliament from both the House of Assembly and Senate are working on reviving the Zimbabwe Tuberculosis (TB) Caucus, an grouping of volunteer legislators and senators derived from across all Parliamentary portfolio committees and thematic committees to advocate for the realization of a TB free Zimbabwe through provision of adequate financing and attention to the infectious disease.
By Michael Gwarisa recently in Kwekwe
This was said during the engagement of the TB Caucus meeting which was convened by the Stop TB Partnership Zimbabwe in Kwekwe recently. The move to revive the caucus comes out of the realization that Zimbabwe needs to regain the gains that have been over years especially in 2020 where most TB patients failed to access treatment due to travel restrictions. The previous Zimbabwe TB caucus was launched by the Speaker of Parliament in 2016 in July by a group of MPs drawn from the portfolio committee on health. However, the caucus was somehow dissolved following the harmonised elections of 2018 while other vibrant members from the oppositions were lost due to Parliament recalls that obtained two years after the 2018 elections.
Zimbabwe’s TB Caucus is an appendage of the Global TB Caucus which is the world’s largest independent parliamentary network with over 2,500 members in more than 150 countries who work collectively and individually to accelerate progress against TB.
Speaking on the Zimbabwe’s plans to re-launch the TB Caucus, Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health Chairperson, Dr Ruth Labode said they were already working on setting up structures to ensure the caucus is up and running soon.
We need to find the people who lead and that process of finding the right people for this is what we are going to be doing this coming week. We are looking for members who are ready to push. We are 360 Parliamentarians in Zimbabwe and we can’t all run with it but we need to identify volunteers who are willing from every thematic committees and portfolio committees that cut across parliament and put TB the forefront,” said Dr Labode.
She added that at a global level, the caucus works in partnership across countries to target groups such as the G20 with coordinated messaging & calls for action while regionally, Parliamentarians work together within their regions and regional platforms to learn, share ideas, and agree on joint and individual actions that will enhance the response to TB in their nations and regions.
“At the national level, our focus is on building groups of parliamentarians to form a National TB Caucus. These national groups are the backbone of our advocacy.”
Africa is divided into three regional TB caucuses namely the Anglophone Africa TB Caucus (Africa TB Caucus), Francophone TB Caucus and the Lusophone TB Caucus that was launched in November 2020. The Anglophone causes has five co-chairs namely Zambia, Nigeria, Kenya, Namibia, and Cameroon. The Global TB caucus was birthed in 2014 in South Africa and the first meeting was had in August of 2015 which led to the signing of the Barcelona Declaration by over than a third of Parliament (138). Zimbabwe became the country with the largest number of Members of Parliament committed to ending TB and Dr Labode became the CO-chair of the Africa Chapter of the Global TB Caucus.
Dr Charles Sandy, the National TB Focal person in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) said the COVID-19 had taken the country 20 years back in terms of TB and a platform such as the Parliamentary caucus on TB would rejuvenate attention towards TB and ensure gains that have been lost can be regained.
“As Parliamentarians, we are really looking forward to you to support our efforts and complement what government is doing by motivating additional support to strengthen the health system. So this can be done internally looking at internal resources and also externally we would want external funders to chip in. The voice of parliamentarians is much respected so I think let’s use your positions to advocate for TB. We also want you within your constituencies to continue and expand the community awareness raising on every platform that you have.
“Our health facilities will also benefit from you coming in to see what’s happening and also look at what needs to be done so that these changes at a local level can actually be effected more and we hope that you continue to get capacitated on TB through various means, workshops and exchange visits to different countries where we can share and learn from the best practices,” said Dr Sandy.
The now defunct TB caucus had made made significant strides around TB awareness and these include participating in World TB Day commemorations, public testing of MPs for HIV, TB And Diabetes as a way to motivate the communities to take up services, moving of motion in Parliament on the cost of MDR-TB treatment on the affected people.
The Caucus also conducted fact finding visits in Midlands Province to ascertain the burden of TB among artisanal miners, participation by TB Caucus at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair events which led to side events of the signing of the Barcelona Declaration by the former Vice President Mpokho, the former Minister of Health DR Parirenyatwa, the late Deputy Minister Dr Masiiwa and the First Lady Amai Auxilia Mnangagwa.