The 71st General Assembly of the World Health Organization ( WHO ) was declared opened in Geneva, Switzerland with the Director-General of the organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Gbebreyesus calling for a shared sense of purpose in tackling the world’s health challenges.
In his keynote address, Gbereyesus said there is no commodity in the world more precious than health and as such, an organization charged with defending the health of 7 billion people bears great responsibility and must be held to high standards.
Citing the camp for internally displaced persons in Nigeria and the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the DG called for a sense of urgency in tackling world health problems since every moment lost is a matter of life and death.
Praising the commitment of WHO staff and health workers who risk their lives to serve others, Dr Gbereyesus pointed at the establishment of a High-Level Commission on Non-communicable Diseases as part of the means to stop the premature and preventable deaths of millions of people. Other initiatives established in the last one year under Gbereyesus, who made history as the first African to head the organization, include an initiative on climate change in small island developing states, the Global Fund and civil society initiative to treat all 4 million people globally who are infected with tuberculosis and an aggressive new initiative to jump-start progress against malaria.
Describing malaria as an entirely treatable disease which kills half a million people every year, he listed other objectives geared towards promoting health and keeping the world safe to include the drive for the elimination of cervical cancer and a new initiative to eliminate trans-fats from the global food supply by 2023.
While disclosing that the WHO had in the past one year responded to 50 emergencies in 47 countries, including Nigeria, he announced the establishment of the Global Preparedness Monitoring (GPW) Board, an independent initiative convened by WHO and the World Bank to monitor system-wide preparedness for emergencies.
“Too much is at stake for us to be modest. we will not settle for a world in which there is a 33-year difference in life expectancy between some countries.
“We will not settle for a world in which people get sick because the air they breathe is not fit for human consumption. We will not settle for a world in which people have to choose between sickness and poverty because of the costs of paying for care out of their own pockets. That is what our new GPW is all about,” he submitted.
He hinted on the transformation plans to make WHO more efficient by streamlining practices that lead to wastage as well as ensuring gender balance and greater geographical diversity throughout WHO.
President Paul Kagame, Chairperson of the African Union and President of Rwanda, was the guest speaker at the assembly which boasts of about 4000 delegates from WHO’s 194 Member States and partner organizations. The Assembly is WHO’s highest decision-making body, setting out the Organization’s policy and approving its budget.
By: Hannah Ojo, Geneva
The Nation News
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