President Uhuru Kenyatta has challenged World Health Organization (WHO) member states to forge a united front in combating pandemics to ensure a healthy world.
The President said the WHO member states needed to take bold decisions and actions to ensure that common aspirations of promoting health, keeping the world safe and serving the vulnerable are realized.
“To be able to effectively mitigate against the negative impacts of these pandemics, we require the concerted efforts of all players within the multilateral setting.
“I say all this to emphasize that we are one people, interconnected and with a shared future. No country is immune and no country, however well resourced, can do this alone,” the President said.
President Kenyatta spoke on Sunday, 22nd May in Geneva, Switzerland, when he addressed the first in-person regular session of the World Health Assembly since early 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic was declared as a public health emergency of international concern.
This year’s World Health Assembly whose theme is “Health for peace, peace for health” brought together leaders from all corners of the world to discuss global health issues.
The Head of State said countries must foster greater cooperation and collaboration in search for lasting solutions to the challenges facing the current generation, especially regarding health and peace.
“This will set us on the right path towards sustainable development and attainment of the highest standards of healthcare for our people. Nationalism, fragmentation, discrimination, exploitation are not the ingredients for the world we want for tomorrow,” the Head of State said.
He emphasized that, more than ever before, the United Nations (UN) member states must also recommit to the principles of the UN Charter and empower the multilateral institutions to assist countries to respond to present crises, rebuild their economies and societies as well as address climate change and its impacts.
“…I underscore that the foundations for building a better tomorrow must be laid by all of us today. Every one of us here has the power to shape the next chapter in our common story and common destiny.
“Together, let us ensure that we leave a legacy of cooperation, solidarity, equity, and inclusiveness. I am more than convinced, this, my friends, is within our reach,” he said.
At the same time, the President outlined the policies and administrative reforms his administration has put in place to achieve the Universal Health Care (UHC) under the Big 4 Agenda.
To ensure successful implementation of UHC, said the Kenyan President, the Government has invested in health infrastructure and development of a digital health platform to support the effective monitoring of the health sector.
To enable WHO facilitate member states achieve their national health goals, President Kenyatta called for increased technical and financial capacity of the global organization at country level.
“The unfinished work of the SDGs, compounded by multiple crises such as conflicts, food insecurity, escalating energy prices and the consequences of climate change demand a WHO that is fit for purpose.
“Enhanced technical and financial capacity of the WHO particularly at country level is key if WHO is to successfully leapfrog member states closer to their national health related goals, amid a highly dynamic and challenging environment,” President Kenyatta said.
He commended WHO for launching key initiatives that are aimed at strengthening the bio-manufacturing capacity within developing countries to supplement their efforts in dealing with various health challenges.
“We especially welcome the launch of key initiatives such as the WHO Academy, WHO C-TAP and the related mRNA manufacturing Hub and spokes which will contribute to strengthening or establishing bio-manufacturing capacity within developing countries, for greater resilience.
“The Covid-19 pandemic necessitated the rapid development of diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and other global public health goods. The pandemic also exposed the over-dependence of developing countries to external markets thereby hampering efforts to ramp up production of the necessary health products and technologies,” he said.
To support the sustainability of the manufacturing initiatives, President Kenyatta urged all stakeholders to join hands to address the financing and coordinated technology transfer including affirmative action and market access for locally manufactured products.
He also called on the WHO to support the bio-manufacturing plants by providing regulatory systems and strengthening the expeditious prequalification of locally produced products to ensure market access and procurement for the finished products from these spokes.
“Going forward, we urge GAVI, the Global Fund, PEPFAR and other major vaccine and essential medicines purchasing organisations to lead the way in prioritising procurement of these locally manufactured health products from the countries they serve most,” he said.
He expressed gratitude that Kenya was among the countries selected as mRNA spokes which will complement the WHO Emergency and Logistics Hub in Nairobi.
The President pointed out that Kenya, through the Africa CDC Eastern Collaborating Centre in Nairobi, is committed to building the necessary capacity in Africa for health emergency prevention, preparedness, and response besides being ready to provide surge capacity in other countries, when required.
The President, who is also the chairman of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA), highlighted challenges faced in combating Malaria in Africa.
“No single tool that is available today will solve the problem of malaria. I, therefore, call for greater investments in innovations for Malaria, TB, HIV, and other neglected tropical diseases; innovations that will bring about new disease control approaches, diagnostics, medicines, and other tools to speed the pace of progress against these priority diseases,” he said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for more funding to WHO to enable it meet the dynamic health demands of the world.
WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said historically, conflicts and war lead to increased outbreaks of diseases, pointing out that more people die from diseases during conflicts than from bullets and bombs.
He, therefore, called on world leaders to work together to tackle health threats facing humanity due to conflicts and other natural calamities.
“Unless we dream of a better world we will keep waking up in this one. Unless we aim higher we will land lower, unless we sow solidarity we will reap division, unless we seek peace we will find war.
“Today and everyday we have a choice, we have a choice, we always make choices. We have a choice and today and everyday we must choose health for peace and peace for health,” he said.
The President was accompanied by Cabinet Secretaries Amb Raychelle Omamo (Foreign Affairs), Mutahi Kagwe (Health) and Health Chief Administrative Secretary Mercy Mwangangi among other senior Government officials.