More than 300 delegates have called for urgent action to halt and reverse the high levels of tuberculosis.
More than 300 delegates have called for urgent action to halt and reverse the high levels of tuberculosis (TB) currently soaring among socially vulnerable groups in countries across Europe. The WHO European Ministerial Forum 'All against Tuberculosis' has adopted the Berlin Declaration, which describes the disease as "an increasing threat to health". In the declaration, member states and international partners commit themselves to providing more political support and resources to control and, eventually, eliminate the disease.
At present, the European Region is the only WHO region, other than Africa, where TB rates are declining too slowly to reach Target 6 of the Millennium Development Goal: to have halted and begun to reverse the incidence of TB by 2015.
The declaration sets out several directions to speed up action, mainly relating to each country's responsibility to strengthen political will, public health and social services systems, human resource capacity, TB surveillance and monitoring, intersectoral collaboration and the need for a region-wide approach to control the disease. A mechanism will be put in place to ensure that the declaration is implemented efficiently and promptly. Progress will be assessed at the regional level every second year, starting in 2009.
Dr Marc Danzon, WHO regional director for Europe, said: "The good news is that many of the challenges that have been pointed out in Berlin can be tackled with good political will and commitment. The reason we called this forum was to draw attention to TB problems that health systems in our member states have to face so that governments can do something about them."
Jorge Sampaio, United Nations special envoy to the Stop TB Partnership, and former president of Portugal, added that the event "is an important step towards greater international partnership and coordination."