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Local MEP calls for urgent action on tuberculosis on World TB Day

A Local Euro MP is calling for concerted action to deal with the threat of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Glenis Willmott is urging EU Member States to make tackling MDR-TB a priority and to work together to ensure that everyone has access to affordable and effective treatments for this infectious disease.

24th March marks World TB Day and new figures released this week suggest 75 million people could lose their lives to TB over the next 35 years if action is not taken to deal with MDR-TB.

Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s European Health Spokesperson, said:

“Many people think of TB as a disease of the past but sadly this is far from the case. Globally TB still kills 1.5 million people every year and 9 million news cases occur annually; one in twelve new TB diagnoses in Europe are MDR-TB.

“I am deeply shocked by the figures released this week showing that the number of deaths as a result of TB could increase significantly if we do not take urgent action to counter the growing threat of drug-resistance.”

It is estimated that by 2050, TB could cost the global economy $16.7 trillion, yet development of new treatments has been slow, with only two new anti-TB drugs approved by the European Medicines Agency in the last 20 years.  Resistance often develops because patients do not have access to an adequate supply of drugs or are given poor quality medication.

Latvia, which currently holds the Presidency of the EU, will host a ministerial meeting to address TB and MDR-TB in Riga next week and earlier this year the Global TB Caucus launched the Barcelona Declaration, to show the political commitment of parliamentarians from across the world to make fighting TB a priority.

Glenis Willmott said:

“As chair of the European Parliament’s Access to Medicines Working Group, I know that one of the major hurdles to dealing with TB is the fact that many patients simply do not have access to timely diagnosis and affordable and effective treatments.

“We urgently need coordinated action from governments, the EU and international organisations such as the World Health Organisation.  I have signed the Barcelona Declaration and hope that when EU Health Ministers meet in Riga next week, they will agree concrete action to make dealing with TB and MDR-TB a priority.

“We all need to work together to ensure that one day TB really will be a disease of the past.”

Clean water can save a newborn baby’s life; let’s commit to giving them a #HealthyStart

clean water pumpToday is World Water Day which is an important annual milestone for international development. Providing universal access to clean drinking water has long been something I have campaigned on and a key goal of the United Nations and countless brilliant charities including WaterAid, charity: water, Just a Drop and many more. But with the UN Millennium Development Goals coming to an end this year, we need to redouble our efforts to help the millions of people still in desperate need of this basic yet vital resource that we take for granted.

Although we have made fantastic progress since many of those charities were started, today’s figures are still shocking: a child dies of a waterborne disease every 20 seconds, that is more than 1.5 million a year, and 750 million people lack access to safe, clean drinking water. It costs just £15 to provide one person with access to clean water; not a high price to save a life.

But the issues surrounding clean water don’t just affect drinking; more than 2.5 billion people, over a third of the world’s population, do not have access to adequate sanitation. This has enormous consequences for hygiene in some of the world’s poorest areas, but it can also put women and young girls in danger when they are forced to be outside alone.

Perhaps the most terrible statistic of all is the one in five babies in developing countries who do not make it past their first month; all for the want of clean water to wash them and their carers’ hands. This year, WaterAid is launching the #HealthyStart campaign which is calling for universal access to water and sanitation by 2030 to be one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals currently being drawn up. The human cost of failing to invest in quality, robust healthcare in the developing world is clear to see which is why we must take the opportunities that this year offers us to push for real progress.

Many of the current Millennium Development Goals are significantly affected by access to clean water: reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, promoting gender equality, to name a few. This is why it is so important that water, sanitation and hygiene are at the forefront of our minds as the post-2015 UN development framework is planned and the 2015 European Year for Development is taking place in the EU.

The EU has played a significant role in delivering safe water and sanitation with around £300 million being committed every year since 2004 through projects such as the European Water Initiative and the EU-Africa Partnership on Infrastructure. EU projects recognise that water has the potential to not only unlock better hygiene and health, but also better nutrition, security and energy generation.

I look forward to continuing my work with colleagues in European Parliament to ensure that 2015 is the year we begin the end of these shocking statistics and give today’s babies a healthy start in life.

We are still fighting against racial discrimination in the EU

iStock_000018447670MediumOn this day in 1960, South African police opened fire against 69 people demonstrating peacefully against apartheid ‘pass laws’ in Sharpeville, South Africa. The United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination marks this tragedy every year, and it should serve as a reminder of the evils that prejudice can cause.

It was a Labour government that passed both the Race Relations Act in 1976 and the Equality Act in 2010, and we should be glad to live in a society where it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race in employment and access to public or private services.

While it is undeniable that we have made great progress in the last few decades, Nigel Farage’s suggestion that we no longer need anti-discrimination laws in employment is foolish.

New figures this month have shown us that the number of young people from black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds out of work for more than a year has risen by almost 50% under the Tory – Lib Dem coalition. This isn’t just a problem for those young people, but for our society as a whole. By stopping a generation of BAME young people from fulfilling their potential, we are limiting the number of talented individuals who might enter the judiciary, the boardroom or even politics in the future.

A Labour government would not stand back while talented young people are struggling to find employment, and we certainly would not scrap anti-discrimination laws. Labour will guarantee a real, paid, starter job to every 18 to 24 year old who has been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for more than a year.

We should remember that racial discrimination and disparities in employment aren’t just issues in the UK, but EU wide, and more should be done at EU level to address the problem.

We have recently seen the worrying rise of far right groups in the European Parliament, giving their MEPs a platform to spread bigotry. The comments of some of the far right MEPs are shocking and we need to make it clear to these groups that the European Union is based on values of tolerance and respect.

It is incredibly important for us to stand up and defend these European values – failure to do so risks normalising the sort of discrimination that we should have left behind many years ago. Labour MEPs have encountered appalling views in the European Parliament, and we will always challenge those who hold them.

Labour MEP supports campaign for World Down Syndrome Day

A local Euro MP is encouraging everyone to help raise awareness of Down syndrome.

Glenis Willmott, Labour MEP for the East Midlands, is supporting the UN’s World Down Syndrome Day this Saturday, 21st March. Labour MEPs are encouraging everyone to help raise awareness, and prompt people to learn more about the vital roles that people with the condition play in our communities.

Glenis Willmott MEP said:

“People with Down syndrome should be able to enjoy equal opportunities as children, and have equal choices about how they live their lives as adults.

“Tomorrow is about celebrating the achievements of people with Down syndrome, and demonstrating how, with support, they can play an active role in our communities.”

Approximately 60,000 people in the UK have Down syndrome, which occurs in almost 1 in every 1000 births. Improved understanding by health workers and the general public has opened up new opportunities for people with the condition, enabling them to lead active, healthy lives.

Glenis Willmott MEP added:

“A lot of people don’t really know what it means to have Down syndrome, so Labour MEPs want to encourage people to take this opportunity to find out more.”

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