In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the economic, social, and health challenges it poses to the world, the 73rd World Health Assembly opened virtual sessions on May 18 and will close no later than Tuesday, May 19.
The debate is attended by heads of States and health ministers of 180 countries to discuss the response measures taken by their governments and the challenges each region faces.
Strengthening humanitarian assistance, stopping the propagation of coronavirus, adopting a governmental approach to care for the most vulnerable population and rebuilding sanitary systems are the main objectives proposed during the session so far.
During his opening remarks, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom asserted that if the world wants to develop, it has to invest in health to face situations of sanitary emergency. “The greatest failing would be to not learn,” he stressed, from this experience.
“The pandemic illustrates why investing in health must be at the center of development (…) Health is not a cost; it’s an investment. Health is a pathway to security, prosperity and peace (…) Now more than ever, we need a fairer world,” he stressed.
The WHO director-general highlighted that the pandemic has tested the bonds of fellowship and enabled us to assess what sort of WHO we want.
Adhanom called on all nations to ensure that the 2020 coronavirus pandemic is never repeated and asserted that the world “needs to strengthen, implement and finance the systems and organizations it has.”
“The time has come to weave together the disparate strands of global health security into an unbreakable chain (…) Today I am calling on all nations to resolve that they will do everything it takes to ensure that the 2020 coronavirus pandemic is never repeated,” he urged.
On his part, UN Secretary-Genral António Guterres pointed out that protecting developing countries must be a common interest.
“The global North cannot defeat COVID-19 unless the global South defeats it at the same time (…) The recovery from the COVID-19 crisis must lead to more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies and societies that are stronger and more resilient,” said Guterres.
Likewise, President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping announced China will provide $ 2 billion of international aid over two years and will work with the UN to set up a global humanitarian response depot and hub to fight COVID-19.
“Let’s make concerted efforts to protect the life and health of people in all countries. Let’s work together to safeguard planet Earth, our common home. Let’s work together to build a global community of health for all (…) WHO has made a major contribution in leading and advancing the global response to COVID-19 (…) We need to step up information sharing, exchange experience and best practice, and pursue international cooperation on testing methods, clinical treatment, and vaccine and medicine research and development,” acknowledged the Chinese president.
The Republic of South Africa highlighted that an undeniable achievement would be to provide universal healthcare to all the peoples.
During his address, President Cyrlil Ramaphosa said that the African Union has called for helping developing countries in their efforts to fight against COVID-19.
“WHO has been instrumental in providing guidance and support to African governments,” he said.
Cuba’s Minister of Public Health José Angel Portal Miranda informed that the Caribbean nation does not give up is solidarity despite the criminal U.S. blockade. Currently, 2,300 Cuban doctors are fighting the pandemic in 26 countries.
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will address the Assembly on Monday afternoon. Minister of People’s Power for Health Carlos Alvarado will participate on behalf of the Bolivarian Government,
The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.