Story by Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor
The 76th edition of the World Health Assembly has opened here in Geneva, Switzerland with member states calling for concerted efforts and unity in fighting emerging health threats across the globe.
Heads of state, health ministers and health experts from across the globe are gathered at the Palais des Nations in Geneva this Sunday, for the 76th World Health Assembly to discuss and share notes on how to navigate the global health terrain as well as strenthen the global architecture for health emergencies.
Every year, the Assembly is tasked with tackling global health challenges and deciding how best to overcome them, and this year, leaders leaders focused the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to boost global health equity as well as build a stronger response and resilient system.
President of the Swiss Confederation, His Excellency Alain Berset noted, “Switzerland has the firm will to contribute beyond its frontiers in the promotion of health for all because the strength of the people is measured by the well being of its weakest member. So, we will continue supporting the vulnerable.”
In a pre-recorded message, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres conceded that the world will not achieve its health targets in individual silos.
He summed up his message by noting that a disease in one nation endangers all and that the global community can realise its objectives for health and well-being if it works together.
“Peace depends on health. Disease in one nation endangers all. Achieving the greatest possible health for everyone everywhere relies on cooperation,” said Mr Guterres.
Mozambican President, His Excellency Filipe Jacinto Nyusi said, “The theme chosen for this year’s World Health Assembly ‘WHO at 75, Saving Lives, Delivering Health For All’, in addition to constantly reflecting on the mission and the trajectory of this prestigious international organisation, is a wake up call for all of us to redouble our efforts to achieve in particular, the third objective of the Sustainable Development Goals to ensure access to quality healthcare.”
Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Président, Mr Gianni Infantino weighed in, “Like any other sector, even football stopped during COVID-19 and together, we elaborated a plan to combat the disease and return to football slowly in safety because we realised that of course, health comes first.”
In his opening address, World Health Organisation Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said the world should always keep in mind the COCID-19 lessons and also learn from experiences of WHO’s 75 years of existence.
“As we mark WHO’s 75th anniversary, we can be proud of our past achievements, but we must be mindful of lessons learned, as we transition from the emergency phase of Covid-19 and create a future where every person has access to the health services they need,” he said.
Speaking soon after the opening ceremony, Zimbabwe’s Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, General (Rtd) Dr Constantino Chiwenga stated that the opening ceremony provided member states with an opportunity to reflect on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as way as map the way forward.
“The opening session has been dealing, mainly, with the pandemic which we have faced and what needs to be done. Basically, that was the message. Yes, we have had this pandemic like COVID-19; it gave the entire world unprecedented problems and a number of activities could not be done, starting from growing the economy and going down to leisure. We are so happy that for Africa, we had the Mozambican President, Filipe Nyusi speaking about the experiences of Mozambique, combining that with other diseases and how his country has worked with the WHO and what they benefited.”
The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation, the United Nations (UN) agency dedicated to promoting the global population’s health and access to the highest levels of healthcare provision. This year’s edition will run until the 30th of May.