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PM stresses equitable access to vaccines



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By A Staff Reporter
Kathmandu, Sept. 7: The 74th Regional Committee meeting of WHO South-East Asia Region kicked off Monday with health leaders calling for greater commitment to building resilient health systems and achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Inaugurating the annual governing body meeting of WHO in the Region, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, said, “This session is convened to take important decisions on improving the health status of the people in this region at a time when our health systems are overstretched to cater essential health services to the needy people.”

“Let’s ensure equitable access to vaccines, medicines, tools and technologies for the sake of humanity. Reaching out to the unreached should be our priority,” said Prime Minister Deuba.
WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on lives, livelihoods, societies and economies. I am pleased to see a decline in cases and deaths in the South-East Asia region, following the devastating surge in May of this year.”

“However, the situation varies widely from country to country and place to place, with steep increases and overwhelmed hospitals in some areas. We must never again allow a pandemic on this scale. And that we must never again allow an injustice on this scale,” said Dr. Tedros.

Regional Director Dr. Poonam Kshetrapal Singh, said, “COVID-19 has taken a massive toll on our health systems. Services have been disrupted and health care workers exhausted.
“Our challenge is multi-faceted, we have to regain lost ground in terms of health outcomes, rebuild health systems that have lost capacity and we have to do this at a time when government revenues in all countries will be under intense pressure.”

Issuing a press statement, the WHO informed that the five-day virtual session, attended by Health Ministers and senior health officials of the member countries of the Region, UN agencies, partners, donors, and civil society representatives, will deliberate on strengthening public health emergency preparedness and response and accelerating progress for prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, among other health issues.
A ministerial roundtable is planned Tuesday on ‘building back better’ the essential health services, hit by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with the aim to achieve universal health coverage, according to the statement.
The annual meeting, which is organised virtually for the second consecutive year in view of the pandemic, also discusses regional framework for vaccine action plan, revitalising school-health, and ending viral hepatitis, HIV and STIs.

Progress made by the Region on previous Regional Committee resolutions on eliminating measles and rubella by 2023, improving access to essential medical products, and strengthening health systems to accelerate delivery of services for non-communicable diseases at the primary health care level will also be discussed at the session.

Home to one-fourth of the global population but with a disproportionate burden of diseases, the region has been prioritising elimination of measles and rubella by 2023and containment of non-communicable diseases through multisectoral policies and plans. Also the region is to prioritise accelerating reduction of maternal, neonatal and under-five mortality, advancing universal health coverage, reversing antimicrobial resistance, scaling-up emergency risk management capacities, eliminating neglected tropical diseases and ending TB, read the statement.