The Seventy-third Regional Committee Session of WHO South-East Asia Region began with health leaders emphasising on greater investments for strengthening health systems and continued efforts and collaboration for combating COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic underscores that the world is a global village where all lives are intertwined. To win we must collaborate and fight as one. The pandemic has also taught us how important it is to protect our precious health gains. In order to protect our health gains, we must continuously invest in health. Our Region needs to invest more and more in public healthcare and build a robust health delivery system,” said Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health & Family Welfare, India, while opening the proceedings as Chair of the previous year’s Session.
Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, said the pandemic demonstrates interconnectedness of all Sustainable Development Goals. All sectors, public and private are collaborating. This is really unprecedented. While we fight our common enemy COVID-19, we see so many social innovations and solidarity. Mr Charnvirakul is chairing the annual governing body meeting of WHO in the Region with Thailand hosting the Session this year. The two-day Session is being held virtually for the first time ever in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing the Session, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “COVID-19 is causing so much pain, sorrow and uncertainty. But it is also giving us an opportunity. The whole world can now see that health is an essential investment in safer, healthier, fairer and more sustainable societies.”
The Regional Director WHO South-East Asia Region, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said, “greater investment in public health would help achieve better health outcomes, promote sustainable development and a more equitable and just society.”
Dr Khetrapal Singh said, “For over nine months now, countries have acted with speed, scale and solidarity to respond to the COVID-19 crisis that has affected all of humanity and impacted social and economic life like no event in living memory. While determined efforts have helped save countless lives, ongoing commitment is needed to save many more lives.”
Emphasising on solidarity and cooperation, the Regional Director said this has defined our work for many years now, and which has been central to the response thus far.
The WHO Director-General said countries now need to focus on four priorities. First, prevent amplifying events. Second, save lives by protecting the vulnerable. Third, empower and educate people and communities to protect themselves and others and fourth, focus on the public health basics – find, isolate, test and care for cases, and trace and quarantine their cases.
All speakers commended the selfless efforts being made by millions of health workers across the world in the COVID-19 pandemic.
On day two of the Session a ministerial round table will be held to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts being made to maintain essential health services and accelerate resumption of health-care services disrupted by the pandemic. – MB Bureau