Last week, Joyce Kamwana, Global Fund ‘Here I Am’ campaign ambassador from Malawi and Mamta Jacob, TB Advocacy Programme Manager from India, took part in a weeklong tour to the UK. During the week Joyce and Mamta shared their personal stories with parliamentarians, DFID teams on Reproductive Health and Health Services, civil society partners, representatives from the Malawian and Indian High Commissioners offices in London, as well as RESULTS grassroots activists!
The aim of this advocacy tour was to increase better understanding amongst a wide range of stakeholders of the impact of tuberculosis on women with a particular focus on maternal health, as well as to highlight the subsequent effects of the poor replenishment of the Global Fund on tuberculosis control.
The week kicked off with meetings with maternal health networks and the UK Coalition to Stop TB, and it was clear from the discussions that little attention has been paid to date on TB as a women’s health issue. In 2008, the World Health Organisation reported 3.8 million women infected with tuberculosis , 700,000 deaths in women from tuberculosis alone (200,000 of whom were also co-infected with HIV), in comparison to 348,000 deaths in women due to all causes associated with maternal mortality. The impact of tuberculosis on maternal health soon became strengthened when Mamta highlighted studies from Mexico and India, indicating that TB positive women were twice as likely to give birth to a premature or low-birth-weight baby and four times more likely to die during childbirth. The risk of infant death also greatly increasing.
Mamta and Joyce also met with parliamentarians including Lord Desai, (founding member of the Development Studies Institute at the London School of Economics), MPs Chris White (Member of the International Development Select Committee) and Jeremy LeFroy, (Also a member of the Select Committee and Chair of the APPG on Malaria and Neglected tropical Diseases). These meetings were a prime opportunity to encourage parliamentarians in the UK to engage with their international counterparts to raise awareness of tuberculosis as a key development issue, and to high light the role the Global Fund has in delivering life saving treatment for all three core diseases (HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria).
At a dinner with the Malawian High Commissioner, His Excellency Dr. Francis Moto, Mr Rahul Shrivastava from the Indian High Commission, as well Baroness Masham (vice-Chair of the APPG on Global TB), discussions revolved around the impact of the Global Fund on tuberculosis and what more can be done carrying forward the control of tuberculosis. Discussions drove towards the need for national governments to also be global advocates.
The week drew to a close with an evening reception with RESULTS activists. With business plans on reproductive, Maternal and Newborn health and Malaria in progress by the Department for International development, Joyce and Mamta’s visit has been essential for educating activists, policy and decision-makers on informing them on the impact of tuberculosis on women and mothers and has inspired us all to galvanise together to support a coordinated response to tackling the disease alongside, other causes of maternal mortality.
 Trends in maternal mortality, released by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank
 Lin, H.C. and Chen, S.F., 2010: Increased risk of low birth weight and small for gestational age infants among women with tuberculosis. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 117(5):585