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UN chief calls WHA ‘vital’ as health suffers amid ongoing crisis

GENEVA: The UN secretary-general on Monday described the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), as “vital” amid the ongoing crisis, saying health suffers when it rages.

In a video message to the opening day of the 77th session of the assembly, Antonio Guterres said: “Our world is in trouble, from climate chaos to rising poverty and inequalities and multiplying conflicts. And when crisis rages, health suffers.”

The annual WHA will continue until June 1 under the theme of “All for Health, Health for All” in the UN office in Geneva and is being attended by delegations from all WHO member states, NGOs, and prominent individuals.

Guterres stressed that there are more than 20 million children missing routine vaccinations across the globe, rising cases of Dengue and other diseases linked with rising global temperatures, causing outbreaks in more than 20 countries in 2024 alone, and the mountain of evidence that “health is a casualty of war.”

“Millions of peo
ple in Sudan and Gaza are at risk of dying not only from bullets and bombs but from untreated injuries and disease, and precedent attacks on healthcare go beyond anything I’ve seen in my time as secretary-general,” he said.

He noted that WHA is an opportunity to address many global health challenges, and “utilize our international architecture, building the systems we need for the crisis we know will come.”

Regarding the pandemic agreement, he said it is “a once-in-a-generation” opportunity to ensure the global health system can respond “more quickly and equitably” when the next pandemic strikes.

“I urge you to bring it to fruition and to support the amendment,” he said. “Let’s seize this chance to make these World Health Assembly counts and help build a healthier, safer, fairer world for us all.”

EU is ‘strong, reliable’ partner

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, also in a video message, said the assembly brings together almost 200 countries with “one clear goal to promote health and we
ll-being around the world.”

“They all share a strong commitment to multilateralism and solidarity. In this endeavor, you can count on the European Union as a strong ally and reliable partner,” said von der Leyen.

Noting that the bloc mobilized “more funds resources than ever before” in the past five years, she said: “We have taken immediate and concrete actions with the World Health Organization as our key partner.”

And one of these actions, she said, is the Team Europe Initiative for regional and local vaccine manufacturing hubs in Africa.

“Only by working together will we succeed in bringing better health and well-being to people across the globe and create a safer and healthier world for future generations. Now is the moment to do this,” she said, and added: “I urge all of us to keep that in mind as we continue.”

At the beginning of the session, the WHA elected Botswana Health Minister Edwin Dikoloti as the president of the 77th assembly.

Source: Philippines News Agency