Indonesia seeks UAE, Saudi aid in fighting tuberculosis, meningitis

JAKARTA: Indonesia is set to receive financial assistance from the UAE and Saudi Arabia to tackle a tuberculosis epidemic and acquire vaccines against meningitis, its health ministry said on Tuesday.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin held talks with foreign officials on the sidelines of a Group of 20 ministerial meeting in Bali last week that led to at least eight agreements, including financial assistance for the Indonesian health sector from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“There will be $5 million financial aid from Saudi Arabia for medicines and vaccines against meningitis for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims,” the Indonesian Ministry of Health said in a statement.

“There’s also $10 million from the UAE to tackle TBC (tuberculosis) in Indonesia.”

Indonesia has some of the highest numbers of meningitis cases in southeast Asia, as it has been struggling to secure an adequate supply of vaccines amid limited domestic production.

Vaccination is a requirement for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, and the supply issue has been a problem in recent months for those coming from Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

Tuberculosis is also a major problem. Indonesia accounted for the second-highest number of cases worldwide, after India, with 969,000 incidences annually, according to a report this year from the World Health Organization.

Indonesian authorities announced plans to launch a mass screening program in March, as the country aims to eliminate the infectious disease by 2030.

Most tuberculosis cases are recorded on Indonesia’s most populous Java island, home to around 150 million people and where the capital Jakarta is located, according to Ministry of Health data.

The financial assistance from the UAE will help Indonesia to close a funding gap it needs to fully finance its national program against tuberculosis, Jakarta-based organization Stop TB Partnership Indonesia said.

“This commitment from the UAE, as a direct result of bilateral diplomacy, is very strategic,” Diah S. Saminarsih, Stop TB Partnership Indonesia’s chair of the board of trustees, told Arab News.

“This support is also timely as Indonesia needs to catch up to recover from the service disruptions during the coronavirus pandemic.”

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