By Ayo Ajayi
“Today, half the world’s population cannot access essential health services. Millions of women give birth without help from a skilled attendant; millions of children miss out on vaccinations against killer diseases, and millions suffer and die because they can’t get treatment for HIV, TB, and malaria.”
These were the words of the Director-General, World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in his statement to mark this year’s World Health Day.
He decried the lack of access to essential health services, adding that, “In 2019, this is simply unacceptable.”
Dr. Ghebreyesus noted that though, the organisation has made enormous progress in recent years against some of the world’s leading causes of death and disease; there was still a lot of work to be done to realize the vision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
“Last October, we saw a momentous commitment to health for all in Kazakhstan with the signing of the historic Declaration of Astana on primary health care.
“This was a key milestone. Strong and sustainable primary health care is the bedrock of universal health coverage and the best defence against outbreaks and other health emergencies.
“Although there will always be outbreaks and other disasters with health consequences, investing in stronger health systems can help to prevent or mitigate them.
“In the Sustainable Development Goals, all countries have committed to achieving universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030. To meet that target, we need to see 1 billion people benefitting from UHC in the next 5 years.
“This is not an unattainable dream, nor will it require billions of dollars to implement. UHC is achievable, right here, right now, for all of us,” he explained.
The DG noted that in marking this year’s World Health Day, WHO colleagues would join hands with staff from health and development organizations around the world to symbolize the shared commitment to ensuring health for everyone, everywhere.
This shared commitment, he said, would be fundamental as the organisation move forward to the next milestone in the global push towards universal health coverage – at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage in New York later this year.
“At that meeting, world leaders will have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to UHC to ensuring that every mother can give birth safely, that every child survives past its fifth birthday, and that no one dies simply because they are poor.
“As we celebrate World Health Day, I pay tribute to health workers all over the world who are working to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. I especially thank the dedicated personnel from WHO and our partners who are working around the clock in extreme circumstances, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique and Yemen,” he said.