October 10th, 2017 – The 64th Session of the Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean commenced today with the adoption of the agenda, followed by the Annual Report of the Regional Director. The progress report highlighted the focus areas during the past year. Dr. Mahmoud Fikri started by emphasizing the need to strengthen healthcare systems in order to achieve Universal health coverage and the goals set by the Sustainable Development Goals. A crucial barrier to overcome is insufficient funding, and WHO in 2016 focused on developing health financing strategies for universal health coverage in the region.
There was also progress in implementation of the regional strategy on health and the environment, and all countries of the region endorsed the global roadmap on the health impacts of air pollution on health. 8 countries developed national plans of action to decrease air pollution.
Despite the burden non-communicable diseases place on the region, there have been multiple barriers impeding progress in the region. There is a need to address the risk factors, and Dr. Fikri highlighted the importance of partnering with civil societies to move forward. Mental health should not be left out, and there has been progress in the past year with the adoption of the regional framework to scale up action on mental health in the region.
There has been significant progress in eradication of polio, with only 11 cases in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the past 12 months. Considerable work was also done to reduce the risk of outbreaks in polio-free countries. The next step would be to eradicate measles. During 2016, the regional average for DTP3 vaccination coverage was 80%. Though a low target compared to international standards, it is an achievement in the current political environment.
Our region is facing an unprecedented increase in emergencies, which have placed a significant burden on healthcare systems of the region. In addition, there are 30 million displaced individuals in the region in need of health services. There is a need to strengthen the national capacity to respond to the acute health needs during emergencies.
In order to address the regional challenges in an effective way, the Regional Office developed a road map, which is in accordance with the global and regional health environment and is directed towards the sustainable development of world as well as WHO’s reformed agenda.
It comprises of 5 very important interlinked pillars:
- Emergencies and health security
- Communicable diseases
- Non Communicable diseases
- Maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health
- Health system strengthening
Joint planning will lead to greater engagement, strengthening and expansion of approach. There is consistence between the roadmap and regional priorities, it just needs to be translated into action.
Dr. Tedros mentioned that there will be a high level meeting regarding Non communicable diseases from 18th to 20th October in Uruguay 2017. This meeting will serve as foundation for discussions at UNGA.
Dr. Tedros also acknowledged IFMSA’s stance and appreciated that “youth are the present and the future.”
Statements delivered during day 2
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