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Health minister attends World Health Assembly in Geneva

May 23, 2011, 2:21 PM

The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Fatim Badjie, accompanied by the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Abdoukarim Sonko, and Director of National Public Health Laboratories (NHL), Dr Makie Taal, is currently participating in the 64th Session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) Conference which began on Monday 16 May 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The theme of this high-level meeting is “The prevention and control of Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs)”, which involves diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, cancer, sickle cell, obesity, mental health, etc.

The theme presents a unique opportunity for the international community to take action against life threatening NCDs, save millions of lives and enhance development initiatives.

It also has a special focus on developmental challenges, social and economic impacts, particularly for developing countries.

WHO has facilitated regional consultations of Member States to give governments the opportunity to contribute, particularly by identifying the key challenges posed by NCDs in their regions and respective countries, with measures that exist to reverse the current trend of NCD threats.

Prior to the 64th WHA meeting, a Gambian delegation lead by Minister Badjie also participated in a meeting organised for the African Region at the WHO Regional Office in Brazzaville, Congo.

The Brazzaville meeting provided opportunities for African countries to recognise the magnitude at which people die from NCDs-impeding immensely on development efforts of the African countries.

The main objective of the meeting was to share experiences on the aforementioned diseases and to map out joint African strategies to be presented at the 64th WHA in Geneva for consideration.

In cognisance of this reality, The Gambia Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has appointed a focal person to be responsible for NCD interventions.

The Ministry is on the verge of establishing a new NCD Programme unit that will focus solely on addressing NCDs.

The sixty-fourth session of the WHA focuses on the discussions of very pertinent issues regarding current health situation in the World and the intervention mechanisms to be considered.

Also being discussed are issues related to budget management of WHO activities, Health System Financing and reform of WHO entire administrative structure.

During deliberations on the topics: Future Financing for the WHO and Reforms for a healthy future, Hon. Badjie asserted that the WHO has the mandate to serve as the global authority for directing and coordinating public health to promote the ‘attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health’.

With this broad objective, WHO has registered tremendous impact towards the advancement in public health over the course of its existence.

“These are simply beyond the scope of a bilateral response and thus require the pooling of resources, expertise and networks for which the WHO is well positioned to provide,” she said.

According to her, WHO’s scope has been stretched beyond its core strengths with the results that its impacts have been diluted in recent years thus necessitating a total reform of WHO, which is a subject for discussion at this 64th WHA.

Minister Badjie, therefore urged all stakeholders, Member States, the United Nations, donor agencies, etc., to take full advantage of the reform efforts.

Speaking to hundreds of delegates, Minister Badjie said countries like The Gambia have also been benefiting from donor countries such as the Republic of China on Taiwan.

She said that in their efforts to boost global health, Taiwan has significantly contributed to the health delivery system of several countries including The Gambia.

She therefore advanced a strong appeal for the consistent representation of the “noble nation” of Taiwan in all WHO activities as already stipulated by the WHA.

Meanwhile, the 64th WHA continues up to 24 May 2011.

On the issue of Global immunisation, vision and strategy, the Minister underscored the high coverage achieved within The Gambia in childhood immunisation.

She said the country plans to introduce Rotavirus and Meningitis A vaccines as part of its comprehensive multi-year plan 2012-2016, and further urged WHO to render additional support to GAVI for the realisation of continuous high coverage of immunisation.

The minister also conducted side meetings with various health ministers, the director general of the WHO African Region, and other several donor agencies including renowned tycoon Bill Gates.