DSCF1179 Between 3 and 7 November 2014, a delegation of the Tuberculosis Europe Coalition* (TBEC) visited Tbilisi, Georgia. TBEC representatives held discussions with key stakeholders and organised a two-day workshop to support ongoing efforts of civil society organisations working in the field of TB, which recently formed a national TB Coalition.

TBEC’s visit and the creation of a national TB coalition was extremely timely considering the number of ongoing activities and opportunities for TB care and control in the country. Among these, the drafting and presentation of a National TB Strategy and the Global Fund’s concept note for TB and HIV, which are due in 2015, will have a prominent role. While working on these key documents, TB actors in Georgia will have to thoroughly reflect on the long-term sustainability of their TB programme and prepare for the major changes expected in the coming years.

In fact, as in many other countries in Eastern European and Central Asian, Georgia is facing a reduction of international donors’ support to health, which risks to greatly affect the TB programme unless proper transition to domestic financing is put in place. Major concerns come from the phasing out of Global Fund, the main donor in the country for TB, set to take place after 2018. In this context, new financial resources will need to be invested and clear responsibilities identified to ensure the sustainability of the TB programme in all its key components.

DSCF1223These considerations have been at the centre of the visit of TBEC to the country, which concentrated its efforts in supporting local civil society organisations and former patients in playing a meaningful role in the aforementioned processes. Through an interactive and action-oriented two-day workshop, the 30 participants representing both national and international NGOs, professional associations, vulnerable communities and patients groups, were able to identify main challenges and needs for TB in Georgia and agreed on concrete activities to be carried out  in the next months to address them.

As a part of the workshop, the TBEC delegation held sessions to explain and facilitate the participation of NGOs and communities in Global Fund-related processes and to increase the understanding of advocacy and the importance of collaboration to improve TB care and control in the country. Particularly useful for Georgian civil society was the presentation of experiences in DSCF1219advocacy and coalition building from neighbouring Azerbaijan, which shares common challenges.

More generally, the TBEC Delegation witnessed a great amount of enthusiasm around TB and the newly established Georgian TB Coalition. The TB Coalition, which was created with the technical support of TBEC and financial assistance from the STOP TB Partnership, will coordinate the work of civil society organisations working on the TB and ensure that NGOs, patients and communities’ perspectives are integrated in ongoing and future policy processes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) monitoring mission that will review the National TB Programme between 6 and 17 November represents a first opportunity to make the voices of Georgian TB NGOs and former heard. Safar Naimov, a former MDR-TB patient from Tajikistan and a member of the TBEC Steering Committee, who takes part to the WHO mission, is currently in Georgia to consult stakeholders on issues related rights of patients and involvement of civil society.

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* TBEC Steering Committee’s members Paul Sommerfeld, Elchin Mukhtarli, Nonna Turusbekova and Andrea Corazza