Mohammad Al Gergawi (right) and Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus launching the UAE-WHO partnership in Dubai on Sunday
Mohammad Al Gergawi (right) and Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus launching the UAE-WHO partnership in Dubai on Sunday Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The UAE and the World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday announced a new partnership to support the global health sector, in which WHO adopts the UAE government accelerators model to speed up the achievement of strategic goals.

The launch came through a memorandum of understanding signed by Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.

The signing took place in the presence of Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of State for Government Development and the Future; Abdulla Nasser Lootah, Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office; Huda Al Hashimi, Deputy Minister of Cabinet Affairs for Strategic Affairs; as well as a number of officials in the UAE government and WHO.

‘Triple Billion’ target

The two parties will work to support the implementation of the WHO Work Programme 2019–2023, and achieve the ‘Triple Billion’ targets. The WHO launched those targets to help countries deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); through 1 billion more people benefitting from universal healthcare coverage without financial hardship, 1 billion more people better protected from health emergencies and 1 billion more people enjoying better health and well-being.

Al Gergawi said the UAE is keen to share successful work models and advanced initiatives developed over the past years to support international efforts in achieving the global sustainable development goals.

Dr Ghebreyesus said: “The need for global collaboration on data and evidence has never been felt more acutely than during the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO is committed to being a modern, data-driven organisation to make a measurable impact on the lives of those we serve. WHO is very pleased to collaborate with the government of the UAE to realise this vision.”

Universal Health Coverage Day

Also on Sunday - Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day, marked on December 12 annually – the Regional Office of the Eastern Mediterranean Region of WHO held an event for the occasion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The event was attended by Dr Awad Mataria, Regional Director for UHC and Health Systems of WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO); Dr Rana Hajjeh, Director of Programme Management at EMRO; and Dr Samira Asma, Assistant Director General, Data Analytics and Delivery for Impact from the WHO headquarters.

Disruptions from the pandemic

Dr Mataria said: “On [UHC] Day, we want to say that our focus is on health, for ‘no one gets left behind’. In the previous two years, owing to the [COVID-19] pandemic, there were many disruptions to the basic health care delivery systems in countries around the world. Elective surgery, cancer care, immunisation schedules, and many other health care issues was disrupted. We want to promote health for all and by all.”

Dr Awad Mataria
Dr Awad Mataria during the WHO event at Expo 2020 Dubai on Sunday Image Credit: Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhari/Gulf News

Healthcare as human right

Dr Asma said: “Health care is a fundamental human right and the lessons that we have learnt from COVID-19 is to strengthen the health care system to be able to provide universal health coverage to all. This entails looking at sustainable development of primary health care services in all countries.”

Dr Samira Asma-1639320814033
Dr Samira Asma Image Credit: Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhari/Gulf News

She added: “We need to look providing health care services for the entire life of an individual from birth to old age that takes care of communicable and non-communicable diseases. In the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw that those with chronic diseases were more vulnerable after COVID and it expedited fatality.

“The goal of UHC is to provide quality and sustainable healthcare to all where there is no out of pocket spending for the individual. This has to be made obligatory on countries to provide healthcare to all. No one is safe till everyone is safe.”

Reassurance on Omicron 

Allaying fears about the Omicron variant, Dr Hajjeh said current studies have pointed out that the variant had relatively higher transmission rate but the infections were milder and the current available vaccination boosters were effective.

Dr Rana Hajjeh-1639320810777
Dr Rana Hajjeh Image Credit: Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhari/Gulf News

“We need to follow the same protocols of social distancing, wearing masks, hand sanitisation and maximum vaccination coverage. There are several countries in the region which has yet to achieve the vaccination goals,” she added.