Wednesday December 11, 2019

WHO Chief Emphasizes the Importance of Universal Health Coverage

WHO General-Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of universal health coverage as an essential component

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WHO Chief, Universal Health Coverage
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivers a speech at the opening day of the World Health Assembly, May 20, 2019, at United Nations Offices in Geneva. VOA

In opening this year’s World Health Assembly, WHO General-Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of universal health coverage as an essential component in the quest for a healthier, safer, fairer world. Nearly 4,000 delegates from WHO’s 194 member states were on hand to hear the WHO chief outline the main health achievements of the past year, and current as well as future challenges.

Tedros campaigned vigorously for the adoption of universal health coverage in the run-up to last year’s election for WHO director-general. Now a year later, he told delegates attending the World Health Assembly that great progress toward achieving national health systems has been made under his watch.

He cited ambitious initiatives which have been implemented or are in the process of being enacted in countries as diverse as Kenya, South Africa, the Philippines, Egypt and El Salvador.

But he noted that universal health coverage is not possible without primary health care. He said primary health care is where the battle for human health is won or lost.

WHO Chief, Universal Health Coverage
FILE – A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a boy who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina, in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug. 18, 2018. VOA

“Strong primary health care is the front line in defending the right to health, including sexual and reproductive rights. It is through strong primary care that countries can prevent, detect and treat noncommunicable diseases. It is through strong primary health care that outbreaks can be detected and stopped before they become epidemics,” Tedros said.

Over the past year, Tedros said significant progress has been made against many of the world’s causes of death and disease. He said a historic milestone has been achieved with the rollout of the world’s first malaria vaccine in Malawi and Ghana.

He said a new initiative was launched to eliminate cervical cancer, which kills more than 300,000 women every year. He said battles have been won against a number of infectious and noncommunicable diseases.

At the same time, he noted many emergencies remain to be addressed. Among them, he said, is the fight to contain the deadly Ebola virus in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

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He said the risk of Ebola spreading to other areas remains very high, even though better tools than ever, such as preventive vaccines, are available to fight this deadly disease.

“But we are not just fighting a virus. We are fighting insecurity. We are fighting violence. We are fighting misinformation. We are fighting mistrust. And we are fighting the politicization of an outbreak,” he said.

Tedros noted Ebola treatment centers have been attacked by armed men, and a WHO doctor was killed in one of these attacks. Despite the many dangers, he said WHO and its staff remain undeterred and will continue their work until the job is finished. (VOA)

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Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has been named the new Goodwill Ambassador by WHO

New WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Zimbabwe for its commitment to public health

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Robert Mugabe
President of Zimbabwe and Chairman of the African Union Robert Mugabe. Wikimedia

United Nations, October 21, 2017 : The World Health Organization (WHO) has appointed Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador to help tackle non-communicable diseases.

New WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised Zimbabwe for its commitment to public health, BBC reported on Saturday.

But critics say Zimbabwe’s health care system has collapsed, with the president and many of his senior ministers going abroad for treatment.

They say that staff are often unpaid and medicines are in short supply.

Tedros, who is Ethiopian, is the first African to lead the WHO and replaced Margaret Chan, who stepped down from her 10-year post in June.

He was elected with a mandate to tackle perceived politicisation in the organisation.

The WHO head praised Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the centre of its policies to provide health care to all”.

But US-based campaign group Human Rights Watch said it was an embarrassment to give the ambassador role to Mugabe given his record on human rights.

“If you look at Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s corruption, his utter mismanagement of the economy has devastated health services there,” said executive director Kenneth Roth.

“Indeed, you know, Mugabe himself travels abroad for his health care. He’s been to Singapore three times this year already. His senior officials go to South Africa for their health care.

“When you go to Zimbabwean hospitals, they lack the most basic necessities.”

The idea of hailing Mr Robert Mugabe “as any kind of example of positive contribution to health care is absolutely absurd”, he added.

President Robert Mugabe heard about the award while attending a conference held by the WHO, a UN agency, on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Montevideo.

He told delegates how his country had adopted several strategies to combat the challenges presented by NCDs, which the WHO says kill about 40 million people a year and include cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes.

“Zimbabwe has developed a national NCD policy, a palliative care policy, and has engaged United Nations agencies working in the country, to assist in the development of a cervical cancer prevention and control strategy,” Mugabe was reported by the state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper as saying.

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But the President admitted that Zimbabwe was similar to other developing countries in that it was “hamstrung by a lack of adequate resources for executing programmes aimed at reducing NCDs and other health conditions afflicting the people”.

Zimbabwe’s main MDC opposition party also strongly criticised the WHO move.

“The Zimbabwe health delivery system is in a shambolic state, it is an insult,” said spokesman Obert Gutu.

“Robert Mugabe trashed our health delivery system. He and his family go outside of the country for treatment in Singapore after he allowed our public hospitals to collapse.” (IANS)