Driving innovation: Global fund fosters partnership between India & UK to combat health challenges
The Global Fund was created in 2002. With public donors including the USA, UK, and private donors such as the Gates Foundation, it has used innovation to help save 27 million lives since 2002.
The fight to end the suffering of infectious diseases is a global challenge. That is why governments from around the world are coming together in New Delhi this week to discuss how to end the global health epidemics of three key diseases, through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
One of the main topics is the fight against tuberculosis (TB) -which now kills more people globally than any other infectious disease and was responsible for 1.6 million lives lost in 2017. Of this number, some 421,000 deaths were in India - making TB the sixth biggest killer in the country. This gives a sharp relevance to this week's discussion.
The UK is committed to this fight against TB. As the second largest donor to the current replenishment of the Global Fund we have pledged up to £1.2 billion in the last three years. Through the Fund and its partners, we have helped save 27 million lives since 2002. In India, in 2017, 1.8 million people were treated for tuberculosis, with the support of the Global Fund partnership.
Fighting TB is a priority that we share with the Government of India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched an ambitious campaign to eradicate TB from India by 2025. Our joint work on this is a great example of our shared determination to be a force for good in the world.
Diseases recognise no borders, so it's right that the partnership between India and the UK also extends beyond borders. In Afghanistan, Myanmar, Uganda and Zambia, Indian innovation and expertise combined with UK funding are helping thousands of TB patients stick to their treatment programmes and cure themselves of the disease.
Through the Global Fund we're working side by side with the Indian Government and investing in TB prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, ensuring people have access to good quality health services, including effective drugs, at the right place and time. We are also tackling the growing threat of drug-resistant TB, now responsible for an estimated 200,000 deaths a year.
To beat TB we will also need to understand it better, and develop new tools and medicines. That is why UK Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt announced additional funding for the TB Alliance at UNGA last year for developing new treatments for the infection.
This shows what we can do when we work together. But much remains to be done. To meet the Global Goal target to end TB by 2030, we need to ensure that there is action in all sectors. TB is most common among the poorest and marginalised in society. We can only prevent the infection by addressing the social and structural drivers of the disease and tackling issues such as working conditions, the quality of housing in which people live, and education.
We will also need to do more to galvanise global action. We fully support the political declaration on the fight against TB agreed at the first ever UN High Level Meeting on TB in September last year. We helped to develop it and will help to make it a reality. A successful Sixth Replenishment of the Global Fund, starting with the meeting this week, is essential to maintain the momentum required.
Beating this disease by 2030 is our ambition, but it's not something that one country can handle alone. By hosting this week's meeting, India is leading the call for all countries - and that must include those worst affected by the disease - to step up their efforts and meet the challenge. I am confident that, working together, India and the UK can become a global force for good in the battle with infectious diseases.
(Sir Dominic Asquith is British High Commissioner to India.)