WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed deep concern over the conflict that erupted on Saturday in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.
In his inaugural speech to the 70th session of WHO Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean (RC70) in Cairo on Monday, he said, "This is the latest tragic chapter in a tragic story in which there are no winners." "WHO is doing what we can to support the health response, but this situation will not be solved with bullets and bombs; the only solution is dialogue, understanding and peace.
"We are all painfully aware that this conflict is just one crisis in a region that has already suffered so much and continues to suffer so much," Dr. Ghebreyesus pointed out.
On a positive note, he congratulated Egypt for achieving "gold tier" status on the path to elimination of hepatitis C as per WHO criteria.
"Less than 10 years ago, Egypt had one of the highest prevalence rates of hepatitis C infection in the world. Thanks to political leadership from President El-Sisi through the '100 million seha' campaign, Egypt has reduced hepatitis C incidence by 97 percent.
"This is an incredible achievement, and it shows how major public health challenges can be overcome with the combination of political leadership and modern tools," Dr. Ghebreyesus added.
On her part, Dr. Mai Al-Kaila, Minister of Health of Palestine and Chair of RC69, who joined virtually, highlighted the fruitful deliberations of RC69 - last year's session, which she chaired - on key issues such as health security, the One Health approach, control of communicable diseases, promotion of health and well-being, and digital health. She also shared the regional perspective on the work of various intergovernmental processes mandated by the governing bodies of WHO.
"To move forward, we need to focus on the health of future generations," she said. "Their health must have more weight in shaping our strategic directions. We must do this together, collectively, and by building on our previous successes," Al-Kaila stressed.
Opening his last Regional Committee as Regional Director, Dr. Ahmad Al-Mandhari expressed pride as he recalled the paths charted together, the hard times navigated and the triumphs that have followed. "It has been the honor of my life to serve you and to serve with you. I think it is only human, though, to also reflect on the regrets, the work that remains and the challenges ahead. "This is also essential if we are to proclaim that we have achieved Health for All by All," he noted.
Explaining the impact of conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, Dr. Al-Mandhari said that 2023 has been a reminder of how quickly health gains can evaporate in the face of conflict or natural disasters. "This is painful for all of us, especially for colleagues who serve in emergency settings. But we stay and deliver and do so proudly - there is no room for backtracking," he added.
High-level officials from countries and territories of the Region also attend the Regional Committee, as do representatives of international, regional and national organizations. Themed "United for a healthier future," the RC70 coincides with the year-long celebration of WHO's 75th anniversary.
Earlier in the day, Regional Committee delegates, led by ministers of health, the Director-General and the Regional Director, took part in a Walk the Talk event in Child's Park, opposite the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean.
The event is a global health promotion initiative to promote physical activity as an integral part of a healthy and sustainable future. Today's event was attended by the WHO champion and World Masters swimming champion Nagwa Ghorab, as well as members of the WHO workforce, government and United Nations officials, diplomatic guests and members of the media. Many attendees joined a walk around the park and took part in short exercise classes before listening to some inspirational and motivational speeches.
Led by Minister of Health Al-Awadhi, Kuwait delegation to the RC70 includes director of the minister's office Dr. Abdul-Rahman Al-Qashan and Director of Kuwait Health Office in Cairo Dr. Mohammad Al-Ajmi.
Source: Kuwait News Agency