WHO members vow to fight coronavirus


All member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region, including Nepal, today resolved to collectively fight COVID-19 and strengthen the region’s response with better equipped health systems to deliver essential health services during the pandemic.

“The spread of COVID-19 has impacted almost every community, overwhelmed health systems and disrupted economies and livelihoods with effects reaching far beyond the health sector.

It has also disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable.

WHO recently surveyed countries to understand better the priorities in the South East Asia Region. At the top of the agenda is maintaining essential health services,” a press release quoted WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Signing the declaration on ‘Collective Response to COV- ID-19’ along with ministers of health and representatives of member countries, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said, “People’s ordinary health needs do not disappear during such extraordinary events. Health security is not only about building capacity to prevent, prepare for and respond to acute events.

It must also be about building capacity to maintain essential health services.”

The declaration was signed at the end of a ministerial round-table on the last day of the 73rd Regional Committee Session, hosted by Thailand, and held virtually for the first time ever due to COVID-19 pandemic.

During the round-table, all member countries shared their various COVID-19 response measures and efforts being made to maintain essential health services and restore those impacted due to the pandemic.

All countries agreed on the importance of universal health coverage and primary health care as a safety net for people to access quality health services, including the most vulnerable population.

The declaration calls for efforts to ensure countries to sustain essential health services and public health programs during public health emergencies and use the current pandemic as an opportunity to build back their health systems to be better.

The member countries agreed to allocation of adequate budgets to ensure uninterrupted services during and beyond the pandemic, while prioritising health of the people.

Countries resolved to strengthen health information systems by leveraging digital technologies, which capture timely reporting of outbreaks and sharing information for policy decisions.

With health workers playing a crucial role during the pandemic, member countries pledged to ensure occupational health, safety and well-being of health professionals and other related workers.

Speaking to health ministers of the 11 member countries, Dr Khetrapal Singh said, “Continued efforts should be made to keep health workers safe from infection and violence and to provide mental health and psychosocial support.” Minister of Health and Population Bhanubhakta Dhakal represented Nepal at the virtual meeting.

The declaration also calls for strengthening safety of patients and people through adequate public health and social measures and access to quality personal protective devices and strengthening occupational and environmental safety through medical waste management systems and making biomedical and systems research stronger.

According to the release, the member countries agreed to continuing and expanding multi-sectoral collaboration; strengthening regional collaboration for scaling up capacities for preparedness, surveillance and rapid response, field epidemiology training, supply chain management of medicines and medical supplies, and regional stockpiling of essential health resources.

They also resolved to identify gaps and strengthen core capacities as required by the International Health Regulations-2005.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on September 11, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.