Opening Speech of Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, at the Consultation on Tuberculosis and Migration in the Western Pacific Region

Manila, Philippines
25 March 2013

DISTINGUISHED GUESTS,

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:

Good morning. It is a pleasure to welcome you to the Regional Office for this consultation on tuberculosis and migration in the Western Pacific Region.

Our sincere appreciation goes to the Government of Japan and USAID for their generosity in supporting this important meeting.

(Looking out over the room…)

Here today I see many familiar faces of friends who work in tuberculosis control.

I also see some new faces of people who are becoming more and more important in the fight against tuberculosis.

I am talking about the representatives of immigration authorities from many countries and areas in our Region.

You work to control borders. As such, you have to power to help control the spread of disease — in this case, tuberculosis.

Over the past two decades, we have seen encouraging progress in reducing tuberculosis cases and deaths in the Western Pacific Region.

Despite this progress, however, the TB burden remains unacceptably high.

About 130 000 still die every year from TB in the Region.

In all, more than 1.4 million people a year are diagnosed with the disease. And many more cases go undetected.

Often these undetected cases are people who are beyond the reach of medical services — people like migrant populations.

Migrants often move unchecked within countries and across borders in pursuit of opportunity.

They often live and travel in marginalized areas with little or no health services.

Tuberculosis is just one of the disease threats that migrants face as a marginalized group.

But TB, in particular, poses particularly dangerous risks.

Migrants diagnosed with TB often only have sporadic or incomplete treatment — which gives the disease a chance to develop resistance.

The greatest danger we face with TB is the development of strains that are resistant to the drugs commonly used in treatment.

Indeed, multidrug resistant TB is a frightening prospect that makes control of the disease much more complex and threatens to undermine much of the progress we've made thus far in our fight against TB.

That is why this week's gathering is of special importance.

Treating the migrant community is key to stopping the spread of multidrug resistant TB.

You are being asked to finalize the draft Regional Framework on Tuberculosis and Migration in the Western Pacific.

This work was done at the request of Member States that want to ensure that migrant populations receive the same access to TB care as other segments of society.

As this plan takes shape, we will also be widening the scope of activities and involving our sister Regional Office for South-East Asia.

As you know, the fight against TB cannot be carried on by health services alone.

We have to work across many sectors and involve many different ministries and authorities to turn health visions into healthy realities.

I wish you all every success as you do your part this week. I look forward to reviewing your achievements.

Thank you.

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