WHO director-general calls for political intervention to achieve universal health
By Lovemore Ranga Mataire recently in Victoria Falls
The World Health Organisation (WHO) director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has called for political intervention to achieve universal health coverage. I n his speech at the 67th WHO Regional Committee for Africa Summit in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, last week, Dr Ghebreyesus said political will was the key ingredient for change. “Everywhere I go, I am heartened by the enthusiasm I see for health at the highest political level. I also see huge enthusiasm for WHO and the work that you all do.
“I know from my own personal experience that political will is the key ingredient for change. It is not the only ingredient, but without it, change is much harder to achieve. “That’s why they call it political intervention – it’s surgical intervention. For a paradigm shift, we need political intervention,” Dr Ghebreyesus said.
The director-general said WHO must not shy away from engaging with world leaders not only technically but also politically. He said his political engagement with leaders had led him to a successful trip to China, which last week generously agreed to increase its voluntary contribution to WHO by 50 percent. He said WHO will provide political leadership by advocating for health with world leaders.
“I have already had first-hand experience of the importance of mobilising political commitment for health. My first trip as DG was to Addis Ababa to the African Union Summit, and a few days later, I had the honour of addressing the G20 Summit in Hamburg.
“Both in the African Union and Hamburg I have seen heightened political commitment, and we made the case for health security and universal health coverage to some of the most powerful leaders at the G20,” he said. Dr Ghebreyesus said he recently launched several “fast track initiatives” that include boosting effectiveness in emergencies through daily briefings; enhancing governance by working with the Officers of the Executive Board (“the Bureau”) and examining the work of the Executive Board and the Assembly to make it more strategic.
He said there was also need for rethinking resource mobilisation by learning from others, pursuing greater value for money in travel and other expenditures, examining climate change in small-island nations and planning for the polio transition. Dr Ghebreyesus said WHO had already started work on shaping the next General Programme of Work which will guide the strategy of the organisation between 2019 and 2023. The director general said the Global Programme of Work would be undertaken with the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The SDGs are the lens through which we must see all our work. They are the priorities that you, the Member States, have agreed on, and must therefore be our priorities. “Within the context of the SDGs, the concept note for the Global Programme of Work proposes that WHO must work towards keeping the world safe, improve health and serve the vulnerable. “Our work on health emergencies must also include finishing the job of wiping polio from the face of the earth, and fighting the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Both demand the same urgency as a sudden outbreak,” he said.
The second priority, he said was to provide health services in emergencies and help to rebuild health systems in fragile, conflict and vulnerable states. The third priority involves helping countries strengthen health systems to progress towards universal health coverage. Dr Ghegreyesus, who is the first African to head WHO, said the fourth priority was to drive progress towards the specific SDG health targets.