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Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus File Photo

Strong primary health care is vital for delivering life-saving services for maternal & child health: Dr Tedros

Strong primary health care is especially vital for delivering life-saving services for maternal and child health, including routine immunisation, the Secretary-General OF THE World Health Organisation (WHO),  Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said while placing his report during the 76th World Health Assembly in Geneva on May 22, 2023.

Presenting his report, the WHO Secretary-General stated that the second high-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage scheduled to be held later this year during the United Nations General Assembly is therefore a vital opportunity to refocus political attention and financial investments on accelerating progress as providing health, by reorienting health systems towards primary health care as the foundation of universal health coverage.

Pointing out that world leaders had made the historical commitment to realise the vision of health for all in 2019 during the UN General Assembly, at the first high-level meeting on UHC knowing little at the time that COVID19 was just around the corner.

“The Second High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage at this year’s UN General Assembly is, therefore, a vital opportunity to refocus political attention and financial investments on accelerating progress,’ Dr Tedros pointed out during his speech.

Stressing that Delivering life-saving services for mother and child health, including routine immunisation, requires strong primary health care in particular, Dr Tedros said, “Between 2019 and 2021, an estimated 67 million children missed out on at least one essential vaccine, including 48 million children who missed out entirely.”

To address the situation, the UN Health Agency along with its partners have launched “The Big Catch-up”, a global effort to increase vaccination levels in children to at least pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023 and to protect those who missed out, the WHO Chief informed.

Pointing out that despite the setbacks of the pandemic, Dr Tedros said that many countries have continued to make progress in maternal and child health.

Citing the examples of DPR Korea, Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand have all achieved SDG targets in reducing neonatal and under-five mortality, and the same five countries, plus Bhutan, also achieved the 2030 target on stillbirths.

“We are also proud to note the impressive progress countries have made in the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding,” he announced..

Stating that in 2022, 48% of children below six months were exclusively breastfed, getting close to the target of 50% set by the World Health Assembly, Dr Tedros said, “And we continue to support research to improve care for pregnant women.”

Stating that in 2022 WHO reviewed evidence from trials in 20 countries that showed for the first time that immediate skin-to-skin care, or kangaroo mother care, can save almost one-third of children born preterm, the WHO Chief said that a WHO-led study showed that implementing a set of interventions at the same time, instead of consecutively, was able to reduce severe post-partum haemorrhage by 60%, and reduce the chance of death.

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Informing the assembly that the new WHO compendium on promoting the health of refugees and migrants showcases dozens of country case examples from 44 Member States that demonstrate real progress in addressing the unmet health needs of refugees, Dr Tedros said, “Over the longer-term, it is a priority to mainstream care for refugees and migrants into broader national plans, supported by partnerships within countries and internationally.”

Emphasising that in order to achieve the dream of providing universal health coverage the counties need to invest more in health workers, the WHO Chief said that concerted efforts in this direction have resulted in falling the projection for the shortfall of health workers globally by about 8 million to 10 million in 2030.

“Five years ago, WHO projected a shortfall of 18 million health workers globally by 2030. That projected shortfall has now reduced to 10 million, but the African and Eastern Mediterranean regions bear an increased share of the shortage,” he pointed out.

“If we are to get anywhere near the SDG target of universal health coverage by 2030, we must close that gap, by supporting all countries to build the health workforce they need,” Dr Tedros said.

Pointing out that all countries must come together to achieve this goal, the head of the UN Health Agency urged the countries to respect the Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel, and in particular to protect the 55 countries on the recently-updated Support and Safeguards list against international recruitment, which is draining those countries.

“We are also working hard to support countries to deliver lifelong training to continuously improve health worker competencies and quality of care,” he added.

DR Tedros further informed the assembly that recently WHO has launched the Global 25 x 25 x25 Campaign, which aims to provide access to basic emergency care training for 25% of nurses and midwives from 25 countries by the end of 2025.

He further announced that the upcoming WHO Academy in France is likely to be completed in the next seven months with the first release of learning programmes scheduled for later this year.

“This will have a significant contribution to building country capacity,” Dr Tedros said.

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