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Peter Mutharika’s absence at TB meeting questioned

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By Eric Msikiti:

SERIOUS BUSINESS— Mutharika addresses the Peace Summit

Activists have questioned President Peter Mutharika’s absence at the first-ever United Nations high level meeting on Tuberculosis (TB), held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (Unga) on September 26 in New York, the United States.

The meeting was an unprecedented step by governments and partners engaged in the fight against TB, following a successful Ministerial Conference on Ending TB held in Moscow, Russia, from November 16 to 17 2017.

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But Mutharika, who is Global Fund Ambassador, delegated Minister of Health Atupele Muluzi to the summit, State House Press Secretary, Mgeme Kalilani, confirmed.

“Every year, the President travels with some cabinet ministers to Unga and at his pleasure, he delegates them to attend some of the meetings while he attends to others, this year the President delegated Hon. Atupele Muluzi to attend the UN high level meeting on TB,” Kalilani said in a WhatsApp response.

But officials from TB network in Malawi said Muluzi’s attendance was not enough considering that other countries such as Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe were represented by their presidents.

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Stop TB Partnership Board Member, who is also Facilitators of Community Transformation (Fact) Executive Director, Thokozire Phiri Nkhoma, said Mutharika’s presence could have shown Malawi’s commitment to combating TB.

“As an ambassador of the Global Fund, which supports the majority of TB programmes in the world, we expected the President to attend the summit, to show his commitment and share his vision in as far as the fight against the pandemic is concerned,” Phiri-Nkhoma said.

She said United Nations’ tracker indicated that Mutharika would attend the conference, but stakeholders realised later that he was unavailable.

“TB is a major concern which calls for the highest possible commitment if the world is to meet the desired goals of ending it by 2030, so we were really disappointed to hear that our President was not attending,” she said.

Ministry of Health spokesperson, Joshua Malango, confirmed that Muluzi attended the meeting alongside the ministry’s Principal Secretary Dan Namarika and Head of TB Department James Mpunga.

Among others, global leaders discussed ways of eradicating TB by 2030.

TB is one of the leading causes of deaths among people living with HIV/Aids in Malawi.

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