Roy Probert in Geneva
The Red Cross Red Crescent’s role in tackling major public health issues has again been recognised, with the Stop TB partnership nominating the International Federation to take a seat on its coordinating board.
The Federation was selected from 14 candidates to represent the voice of non-governmental organisations on the board. It is one of three NGO or technical agencies – along with the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – to sit on the board, in recognition of the distinctive contributions they make towards reaching Stop TB’s targets.
“We are delighted with this decision by the Stop TB Partnership. It is a recognition of the work being done by many National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in tackling the scourge of TB around the world, as well as of the International Federation’s standing as an increasingly important player in the public health field,” says Federation Secretary General Markku Niskala.
As well as the International Federation, the Russian Red Cross and the American Red Cross, a generous funder of TB programmes, are members of the Stop TB partnership.
In taking up its place on the board, the Federation will seek to increase the number and impact of NGOs and technical agencies involved in combating tuberculosis at local, country and international level; improve the involvement of NGOs in the partnership and encourage networking between NGOs and technical agencies involved in TB.
“Given the fact that TB is a high priority for many of our National Societies, we see our role as one of fostering the involvement of civil society in the fight against this pernicious disease, educating populations about TB and ensuring a wider acceptance of the DOTS strategy, especially among national health authorities,” Lasha Goguadze, the Federation’s TB programme coordinator, explains.
DOTS – or directly observed treatment, short-course – is recognised as being the most effective and cost-effective way of treating tuberculosis. Once patients with infectious TB have been identified, health and community workers, as well as trained volunteers, such as Red Cross nurses, observe and record patients for six to eight months to make sure they take the full course and the correct dosage of anti-TB medicines.
The strategy significantly decreases the risk of treatment being interrupted, which may lead to multi-drug resistance. The community-based approach of the Red Cross Red Crescent makes it particularly effective at accessing marginalized people and ensuring compliance.
“As a neutral, impartial and trusted humanitarian organisation, the Red Cross Red Crescent can help bridge the gap between the formal health system and vulnerable communities. This is a significant addition to the mandate and technical capacity of health ministries, WHO, NGOs and technical agencies,” Goguadze says.
“The Federation and National Societies can play an important support role through awareness raising among the general population, providing social support, community mobilisation, and care and treatment supervision to the most vulnerable TB patients,” he adds.
Accelerating the expansion of DOTS is one of the main objectives of Stop TB, a global movement, hosted by the World Health Organisation, involving a number of public health actors dedicated to halting the spread of tuberculosis around the world.