Here is our topic for June,2017.
The 70th World Health Assembly ended nearly one month ago and left me feeling good for a number of reasons.
The first was the election of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of Ethiopia as the first African Director General of WHO. This was achieved in a closed session where three candidates vied for the votes of all member states by secret ballot unlike in the past years when the Executive Board of WHO submitted one name for endorsement by the WHA. Dr. Tedros, as the new Director General is generally known, won easily in three rounds of voting and is an excellent choice. Dr. Tedros has first-hand experience in running a national health system as a very successful Health Minister in Ethiopia.
As health minister, he was very popular among the global health initiatives where he served as chair on the Boards of these organizations such as Roil Back Malaria, and the Global Fund. His current job has been Foreign Minister of Ethiopia which has further exposed him to the world of global diplomacy. I have personally worked with Dr. Tedros in my days as Executive Director of GHWA where Ethiopia was a grantee as one of the 8 global Pathfinder countries on HRH development and later I was a Senior Adviser to the five-year Ministerial Leadership Initiative for Global Health where Ethiopia was one of the five project countries. From this experience I can describe Dr. Tedros as human, caring and visionary. The WHO and the global community should look forward to the future of global health with hope and I wish Dr. Tedros every success. Should Africa expect anything special?
Another reason I came back feeling good from the 70WHA is that I witnessed time and again the return of the discussions to the days following the 1978 Alma Atta Declaration where the focus was on Integrated Primary health Care involving the active participation of the people themselves. Whenever I had an opportunity to speak at the WHA, I applauded this approach to health systems strengthening and prayed that we will not depart from it again as we did in the past if we are committed to the SDGs and the goal of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). How will countries and partners protect this welcome return to the Health for All days and direction?
The third encouraging experience was to participate at the Side Event when the government of the Republic of Zambia launched their National Surgical, Obstetric, and Anaesthesia Strategic Plan (2017 – 2021). The Republic of Zambia has shown exceptional leadership in this field having been a sponsor of the WHA resolution 68.1 in 2015 that recognized that essential surgery and anaesthesia are critical components of Universal Health Coverage thus setting the stage for placing surgery, obstetrics and anaesthesia as key components of Integrated Primary Health Care strategy for achieving UHC that leaves no one behind. Congratulations to Zambia. Can we hear more stories of other similar efforts?
My organization, ACHEST also participated at pre-meetings of CSOs where the entire agenda of the 70WHA was dissected in detail over a two day meeting asking the question in all cases ‘Where are the people in this agenda item?’ Last year the 69WHA adopted a resolution on Framework of Engagement with non-State Actors (FENSA) allowing these to participate at the WHA and the work of the WHO. There are three major categories of non-state actors namely, (i) not for profit civil society organizations (CSOs), (ii) for profit industry and commercial organizations and (iii) philanthropic organizations. The CSOs see themselves as watchdogs making sure that the public interest is safeguarded at all times in the work of the WHO. These CSOs have established an office in Geneva under the name Geneva Global Health Hub (G2H2) as a watch tower for observing and responding to what is going on at this global health capital. I hope country level CSOs can operate similar watch towers. There are several effective ones in many countries.
Finally there was the networking which is extremely valuable as a source of learning and an enabler in forging partnerships and connections for carrying forward the work generated by and that follows the WHA.
I am looking forward to a future of effective health action that actually leaves no one behind.
Three Cheers to Dr. Tedros and UHC.