Paul Sommerfeld, TB Alert, and GeneXpert Machine
Paul Sommerfeld, TB Alert, and GeneXpert Machine

From 3rd-7th June, on behalf of the TB Europe Coalition and RESULTS UK I travelled to Baku, Azerbaijan along with colleagues from TB Alert and Global Health Advocates France to meet with civil society organisations (CSOs) and other key stakeholders working on TB.

The TB Europe Coalition (TBEC) is an informal advocacy alliance that is committed to raising awareness of TB and to increasing the political will to address the disease throughout the WHO Europe Region and worldwide. The objective of the country visit to Azerbaijan (along with previous visits to: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania and Ukraine!) was to:

  • inform local advocates about the TBEC;
  • learn about the advocacy concerns of Azeri CSOs;
  • and explore how TBEC might assist with these concerns, and help tackle TB, while working in partnership with local CSOs and NGOs. 
Azerbaijan National Institute  for Lung Diseases
Azerbaijan National Institute for Lung Diseases

During the week, we held a range of bilateral meetings with CSOs and other stakeholders (you can find the full list of those we met with here) that proved to be highly engaging and informative. What was undoubtedly clear during these meetings is that there is undoubtedly an abundance of motivation, commitment and passion amongst CSOs in bringing about an end to TB. Despite this, Azerbaijan continues to have some of the worst TB rates in the world ranking among the 27 high multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) countries in the world.

We sought to understand why this was the case and were able to identify three major challenges that were putting the brakes upon what work Azeri CSOs were able to achieve.

  1. TB financing post-2015. In recent years, Azerbaijan has had a booming economy and, as a result, international organisations and donors are now pulling out of the country. This leaves a huge gap in terms of the financing given over to TB care and control.
  2. CSOs are unable to play an active role in TB care and control. There is minimal financial and political backing from the Government and a general lack of recognition in the critical role that CSOs do play in TB care and control. This is particularly the case when it comes to social support for current and former TB patients.
  3. Finally, Advocacy, Communication, and Social Mobilisation (ACSM) activities are not prioritised in TB financing. Similarly to above, there is a lack of recognition on how useful ACSM activities can be alongside providing treatment for TB patients.

At a joint stakeholders meetings (with the CSOs and other organisations we had

TB stakeholders hear about the work of the TB Europe Coalition
TB stakeholders hear about the work of the TB Europe Coalition

met with throughout the week) we were able to present the work of the TBEC, our aims and the issues we identified above. Following  a lively discussion (perhaps reflecting the passion of those working on TB in Azerbaijan!) we concluded that the key needs were for additional funding and improved coordination among the CSOs.

All in all, what was so great about the trip was that it showed there is clear potential for significant action to be taken in the country to help address the TB problem. By working in partnership with those in Azerbaijan (and in other countries previously visited) our voices will undoubtedly be louder, more powerful and more likely to affect change. Plans are now afoot for the TBEC to return to Azerbaijan in December to carry out an advocacy planning session to further enhance our collective voice in the fight against TB.

For a more detailed rundown of the trip visit the TB Europe Coalition site here