In a statement to the World Health Assembly, Minister of Public Health: Eastern Mediterranean Region Calls for Investment in Health Systems and Future Pandemic Prevention

The World Health Organization’s Eastern Mediterranean Region has called on all Member States to invest in health systems, essential public health functions and emergency preparedness to achieve the regional vision of Health for All by All.

The statement, which has been delivered today by H.E. Dr. Hanan Mohammed Al-Kuwari, Minister of Public Health on behalf of the Eastern Mediterranean Region to the 74th World Health Assembly said “It is time to put politics aside for the greater good. Together we will defeat the Covid-19 pandemic, but we must also prepare for the next one”.

The statement entitled “Ending this pandemic and preventing the next: we are building together a healthier, safer and fairer world,”. It explained that the pandemic has disrupted essential health services, impacting access to live-saving care. In more than two thirds of countries in our Region, outpatient services for noncommunicable diseases have been closed, reduced or repurposed. Maternal and child health services, including immunization, have been massively disrupted, and polio eradication activities were temporarily paused. Countries face huge challenges but are making tremendous efforts to ensure continuity of care while expanding COVID-19 vaccination coverage.

The Eastern Mediterranean Region countries stressed in their statement that the COVID-19 pandemic is devastating health, well-being and economies across the Eastern Mediterranean Region. The health sector alone cannot defeat pandemic threats. Full engagement by governments and communities is essential.

The statement added “International cooperation and solidarity have often been lacking over the past 17 months, but extraordinary collaboration led to the development of safe and effective vaccines in record time. The COVAX Facility has successfully delivered vaccines to 72 low- and middle-income countries and economies worldwide, including all 11 participating countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Now, we need to scale up the production and roll-out of vaccines and ensure equitable access”.

The Eastern Mediterranean countries explained that the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted many weaknesses and problems across the world, but also offers lessons to help tackle pandemic risks and other public health challenges. Effective responses to this pandemic have been based on key public health measures which are: early detection, robust surveillance, timely laboratory diagnosis, isolation and treatment of cases, quarantine of contacts and protection of health care workers. Scaling up and maintaining these capacities, especially at subnational level, requires sustained political leadership and financial resources. Meanwhile, strengthening the vaccine component of the response can help to expand production capacity for future infectious diseases challenges and jumpstart immunization throughout the life course, as per the 2030 Agenda.

The statement pointed out “Adherence to public health and social measures can only be achieved though consistent and early engagement of communities, timely and transparent information-sharing, and prompt correction of misinformation/disinformation. Community trust has been one of the hallmarks of effective COVID control. Moreover, integrating vulnerable populations in the response is crucial. Vaccination and surveillance must include internally displaced populations and refugees”.

The World Health Assembly meetings kicked off on Monday and will continue until June 1st via videoconferencing.

Source: Ministry of Public Health

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