The year 2019 has started rather actively for Azerbaijan TB Coalition, ranging from active ad hoc advocacy following a visit to children TB sanatorium to preparation for a parliamentary hearing on TB situation in the country to enhancing regional cooperation via meeting with another TBEC member – Turkish Anti-TB Association in Istanbul.
In early January, Azerbaijan TB Coalition visited TB Sanatorium for children in Baku, only to find kids living in appalling conditions, with extremely poor sanitation and no indoor heating in the midst of winter. Following a conversation with the Head of the Sanatorium, the Coalition sprang into immediate action to, first of all, provide some warm clothing and a warm meal for each child and at least one heating system for each room; secondly, to raise the issue with relevant government bodies, which resulted in a Presidential decree to allocate additional finance for the completion of the construct of a new building for the children TB Sanatorium only couple weeks after the visit. As soon as the construction is completed all the children will be transferred to the new sanatorium.
In addition to supporting the children TB Sanatorium in Baku, the Azerbaijan TB Coalition actively prepared for the parliamentary hearing on TB, which took place at Milli Majlis on 14 March 2019. Parliamentarians actively and openly discussed the TB prevention, diagnosis, care and outreach in the country, specifically the need for social support to TB patients, barriers in getting social allowance for TB, very high TB stigma and discrimination, increase of MDR, XDR TB in the region, and need to expand TB awareness campaigns among general population. The MPs also discussed the important role and added value of NGOs in providing health education and counselling sessions in poor rural areas of the country. The Azerbaijan TB Coalition has followed up the hearing with a request to increase the overall salaries for TB doctors and nurses, who tend to leave their jobs in healthcare centres in the country to look for better-paid jobs, for example, in TB hospitals in prisons etc.
Finally, the Azerbaijan TB Coalition has prepared and sent two TB educational videos – a short info video and 15-minutes film to the leading national TV channels to be shown on World TB Day. In order to awake the Member of Parliaments and bring to their attention to increasing number of DR-TB, the Coalition has sent out 54 individually addressed letters, with key TB messages, facts and figures to all the members of Azerbaijani parliament. A couple of days after World TB Day, the Azerbaijani TB Coalition also held a joint meeting with national TB stakeholders, MPs and CCM to mark World TB Day. Furthermore, TBEC Board member, Elchin Mukhtarli has attended World TB Day commemorative meeting organized by the Ministry of Health in Ankara. It is the first time ever Azerbaijan TB CSO representative has been invited to Turkey. The meeting, which was attended by two more people from Azerbaijan’s National TB Program, promises close collaboration between Azerbaijan and Turkey on TB service delivery. It’s time to start establishing good relations with Turkish NGO federation whose NTP manager is now planning an ad hoc visit to Azerbaijan in the upcoming months. The winter and early spring have been exceptionally busy for the Azerbaijan TB Coalition, and hopefully is just the beginning for the rest of the year.
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