Her Imperial Highness Princess Akishino of Japan, and Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of The Netherlands joined the Inaugural Session at the 49th Union World Conference on Lung Health yesterday evening in The Hague.
The royal guests showed their influence and support to drive change, both playing crucial roles as leaders in the journey to end TB. Opening the Union World Conference, Princess Margriet inspired those attending through recollections of her own family’s connection with TB.
In his keynote speech, Eric Goosby, UN Special Envoy on Tuberculosis spoke of the increasing political momentum following the recent UN High Level Meeting. “It is appropriate we are having this conversation now”, he said. “TB has never had this kind of attention. It’s our job not to squander it. We must make sure the commitments made at the High Level Meeting are commitments kept. This may not be easy but we must remember that TB is preventable, treatable and curable.”
Union Executive Director, José Luis Castro, reinforced the message of a time for action, saying, not only for TB but all lung health, saying, “We must translate what we learn this week into the social and political solutions to end TB and stop the suffering caused by tobacco, by pneumonia, by asthma, by COPD and by air pollution that is choking our cities around the world.”
Dr Jeremiah Chakaya Muhwa, President of The Union, spoke of the need to seize the moment for change, saying, “Just weeks ago TB achieved a prominent place on the global agenda as world leaders adopted the United Nations Political Declaration on the Fight Against TB. Those leaders committed to achieve specific goals in the fight against TB and this conference is designed to seize this critical moment and send a loud message to our political leaders around the world. Keep your promises.”
Those attending heard a moving story from Ibnu Haykal, a victim of impure asthma from second hand smoke. Haykal talked about his struggles caused by the adverse effects of tobacco smoke, highlighting that in Indonesia non-communicable diseases account for 71 percent of total deaths. He called on the audience for help to progress tobacco control policies in order to help address the threat to health.
In a filmed message Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, highlighted that globally the fundamental act of breathing is becoming more difficult. He continued to say we need to drive action now to eliminate threats to lung health, which thrive in places where rights do not.
Dr Kitty Van Weezenbeek, Executive Director, KNCV, and locat host of the Union World Conference, addressed the stigma that surrounds TB and thanked the crowd for not only creating and influencing change in the mission to end TB but for also combating TB stigma.
Keren Middelkoop, Chair of Coordinating Committee of Scientific Activities, presented details of the exciting abstracts and symposiums planned as the four day scientific programme gets underway.
The ceremony was closed by Pauline Krikke, Mayor of The Hague, who reinforced the message that clean air is vital to create a better world for everybody, confirming the commitment from The City of The Hague in the fight against TB.