April 18, 2024
Health Lifestyle

What the WHO Director-General said at the G20 Health Ministers meeting in Gujarat, India

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu’s opening remarks at the G20 Health Ministers meeting (inaugural session) held in Gujarat, India, on August 18, 2023.

Your Excellency Shri Mansukh Mandaviya,

Your Excellency Minister Kato,

Excellencies, colleagues, and friends,

Namaste.

I thank India for its generous hospitality, and for its visionary leadership by making health a priority of its G20 Presidency. 

I also congratulate India for its commitment to universal health coverage at home, especially through Ayushman Bharat, the world’s largest health insurance scheme. 

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to visit a health and wellness centre in Gujarat, which is providing primary care services to 1000 households. 

I was especially impressed by the use of telemedicine to provide consultations, with prescriptions provided online and medicines distributed locally.

Digital technologies’ benefits

This is just one example of how digital technologies are transforming health, locally and globally.

I thank India and all G20 countries for your leadership in developing the Global Initiative on Digital Health, which we will launch formally tomorrow.

This important initiative will support the WHO Global Strategy on Digital Health and amplify other initiatives including the WHO Global Digital Health Certification Network, which we established earlier this year, with the support of the European Commission – and I want to use this opportunity to thank the European Commission.

Digital technologies have proven potential for delivering health services to marginalised groups, for improving quality of care, and for detecting, preparing for, preventing and responding to health emergencies, such as Covid-19.

Although Covid-19 is no longer a global health emergency, it remains a global health threat.

Just yesterday, WHO classified a new variant with a large number of mutations, BA.2.86, as a variant under monitoring, highlighting once again the need for all countries to maintain surveillance. 

This is also why we are continuing the ACT Accelerator, and why we continue to seek the support of G20 countries for it. 

Covid-19 lesson

Covid-19 has taught us all an important lesson: that when health is at risk, everything is at risk. 

There are encouraging signs that the world is learning the painful lessons of the pandemic. 

Beginning with the Presidency of Saudi Arabia, a relay of discussions led to the establishment of the Joint Finance-Health Task Force under the Italian Presidency, supported by Indonesia and now India under their respective Presidencies. 

As you know, negotiations on a pandemic accord and amendments to the International Health Regulations are making good progress. 

Both processes are essential for creating the legal and operational framework for an inclusive, coherent, and equitable global health security architecture.

WHO support

In tandem, WHO is leading or supporting several initiatives to strengthen health emergency preparedness and response, including the Pandemic Fund, the WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence, the WHO Bio Hub system, the Global Health Emergency Corps and the Universal Health and Preparedness Review.

Building on the lessons learned from the successes and shortcomings of the ACT Accelerator and other processes including the G20 and the Johannesburg process, WHO has developed a concept note for an interim mechanism to coordinate timely and equitable access to medical countermeasures for epidemic and pandemic threats.

We welcome the constructive discussions that G20 countries have held here in Gandhinagar, and I thank India for its leadership on this.

We encourage you to work with non-G20 countries to build and broaden consensus, and we look forward to establishing the interim mechanism at the earliest opportunity.

4 requests

Let me leave you with four requests.

First, I seek your commitment for the implementation of the Global Initiative on Digital Health.

Second, I seek your commitment to inclusive and consultative dialogue with all Member States on the interim mechanism for medical countermeasures.

Third, I seek your continued support for the Joint Finance-Health Task Force, to complete its work on surge financing and economic vulnerabilities to pandemics, and to continue the collaboration to address other challenges. 

And fourth, I seek your commitment to negotiating a comprehensive pandemic accord that encompasses all the lessons of the pandemic, so that we never repeat the same mistakes again.

Time is of the essence, with the accord scheduled to be considered by the World Health Assembly next year. 

My thanks once again to India, to Prime Minister and to Minister Mandaviya for their leadership, and to all of you for your partnership for a healthier, safer, fairer world. 

I thank you.

Featured image: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu. Image: WHO

Last Updated on 7 months by Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto

    Arnold Pinto is an award-winning journalist with wide-ranging Middle East and Asia experience in the tech, aerospace, defence, luxury watchmaking, business, automotive, and fashion verticals. He is passionate about conserving endangered native wildlife globally. Arnold enjoys 4x4 off-roading, camping and exploring global destinations off the beaten track.
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