Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia outlined key health issues in Liberia after 14 years of war, in particular the impact of having only 50 doctors left in the country. Efforts to rebuild the health system focus specifically on decreasing maternal and child mortality by improving emergency obstetric care, training midwives, building health clinics for rural areas and suspending user fees. 90% of the population live on less than $2 a day and therefore cannot afford to pay for health care. Progress is underway towards reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) but it is fragile and assistance, she says, is essential.
Ray Chambers, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, focused on the importance of the contribution of conquering malaria in achieving the MDGs. He says without controlling malaria we will not be able to achieve several of the MDGs, and he is advocating for assistance in reducing the number of malaria deaths to near zero by 2015.
Transcript of speech by Ray Chambers, United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria
Health MDGs: progress and challenges
Experts from WHO; the Minister of Health and Welfare, United Republic of Tanzania; the Minister of Health, Bangladesh; the Vice-Minister of Health, Chile; and the Executive Director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria pin-pointed progress made and challenges remaining within countries in achieving the health-related MDGs. There was a particular focus on the health MDG least likely to be met–reducing maternal mortality–as well discussion on further improving child survival and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis.
Speakers recounted how progress, although uneven, was made possible by a combination of national policies, leadership, resources and provision of accessible community level health services. Removing barriers to services such as reimbursement of transportation costs and providing motorcycle ambulances were raised as potential solutions. Common challenges emerged from the discussions: health systems need strengthening, interventions are too compartmentalized, inadequate resources and a need for better systems to record, births, deaths or cause of death.
Other key issues raised included improving political commitment, community mobilization and ownership, working in partnership and addressing the effects of disasters. The link between the education of girls and empowerment of women to achieving MDGs 4 and 5 was repeated in the discussions.
WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan noted that whereas there is no lack of innovation, the main challenges are scaling up programmes from the local to the national and global levels and ensuring their sustainability.
Monitoring of the achievement of the health-related MDGs
About 40 countries took the floor during the discussion and supported the draft resolution on the Monitoring of the achievement of the health-related MDGs. Member States underlined the importance of the health-related MDGs, recognized the past achievements but also called on WHO for support to accelerate progress. Some Member States deplored that MDGs 4 and 5 were lagging behind. One suggestion was that WHO should increase its budget allocation for these MDGs. Another comment was for concrete measures to achieve MDG 5. Additionally it was stressed that increased private and public sector collaboration was needed to meet the goals and that the training of health workers and task shifting were important elements of efforts to achieve these goals. The discussion will continue on Wednesday, 19 May.
Public health, innovation and intellectual property
Delegates discussed a global strategy and plans of action for public health, innovation and intellectual property. The debate focused on financing issues, including the rational use of funds, and conducting research through regional networks. While some speakers supported discussions at intergovernmental levels, others were not in agreement. The item will be taken up for discussion later in the week.
The issue of intellectual property is critical for 4.8 billion people who live in developing countries, more than 40% of them living on less than 2 US dollars a day. Poverty affects their access to health products to fight disease. World Health Assembly resolutions in 2008 and 2009 aim to improve access to medicines and health products. The global strategy proposes that WHO should play a strategic and central role in the relationship between public health and innovation and intellectual property within its mandate. The strategy was designed to promote new thinking in innovation and access to medicines, which would encourage needs-driven research rather than purely market-driven research.
Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan
Several reports were presented to the delegates, from WHO, the Ministry of Health of Israel, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN and the Syrian Arab Republic.
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