Health Ministers and high-level representatives of the 22 countries and territories of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, partner organizations and civil society, has participated in the Sixty-sixth Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean, in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, from 14 to 17 October 2019.
Ambassador Dr. Huseyin Avni Bicakli, Deputy Secretary General of ECO represented the ECO Secretariat at the opening ceremony of this event which was kicked off by H. E. Dr. Hasan Rouhani, Honorable President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
H. E. Dr. Hasan Rouhani in his speech at opening ceremony at the 66th session of the WHP Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean, praised Iranian scientists, researchers, and manufacturers which have doubled their efforts despite unprecedented economic pressure and unfair sanctions and concluded that “Today, we are moving toward self-sufficiency”. Addressing members of the Regional Committee, President Rouhani highlighted the progress the Islamic Republic of Iran has made over the past four decades, resulting in an increase in life expectancy from 56 to 76 years, as a consequence of the improved health care services provided to the whole population and the stability and peace enjoyed by the country. The President noted that the country is about to become self-sufficient in meeting its needs for medicines, with local manufacturers currently producing 95% of needed medicines. He praised the role of Iranian physicians and health care workers, and those of the world, for their sacrifices in helping humanity.
In his opening remarks at the beginning of the ceremony, Dr Al-Mandhari expressed the importance of the Regional Committee as a chance to review recent health developments, share successful experiences and expand the horizons for WHO’s work in the Region. He expressed concern over the deteriorating health status of people in the Region due to conflict, natural disasters, epidemics and political strife, with the related negative consequences for the provision and availability of health services in some countries.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for his part said that Iran is the health leader in the Eastern Mediterranean region as the country has managed to control the mortality of infants, women and communicable diseases by promoting health services. “We have developed a plan to achieve the goal and I pledge to help implement it this year, but we have other problems in the area, such as uncontrolled drug use and environmental issues, that we are ready to help address them,” he concluded.
The 3-day event commenced in Tehran on October 14, with health ministers and high-level representatives of the 22 countries and territories of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO), including partner organizations and civil society in attendance.
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Islamic Republic of Pakistan and Islamic Republic of Iran as ECO member states are among the members of EMRO which participated at the level of Health Minister at this regional event. ECO Secretariat also attended the meeting in the capacity of observer.
Key technical health issues discussed during the event including ending preventable newborn, child and adolescent deaths, strengthening nursing and midwifery as well as hospital sector, developing national institutional capacity for health policy-making and accelerating the regional implementation of the UN Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases.
The Regional Director presented his annual report which was covering the adoption of the 13th General Programme of Work and the subsequent broad consultations resulting in Vision 2023. The annual report contains sections on strengthening health systems for universal health coverage, promoting health across the life course, noncommunicable diseases, communicable diseases, health emergencies and implementing WHO management reforms
The countries of Eastern Mediterranean in this event furnished the attendance with their respective country progress reports on “Eradication of poliomyelitis”, “Health, the environment and climate change”, “Regional strategy for the improvement of civil registration and vital statistics systems 2014,“2019”, “Implementation of the Eastern Mediterranean vaccine action plan and the regional malaria action plan 2016,“2020”, “Scaling up mental health care: a framework for action”, ” Implementing the regional framework for action on cancer prevention and control”, “Implementation of the global action plan on antimicrobial resistance” and “Emergencies and the International Health Regulations (2005) in the Eastern Mediterranean Region”.
The technical paper on Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) outlines required urgency if the world is to achieve health target 3.4 of the Sustainable Development Goals: to reduce by one third premature deaths from NCDs through prevention and treatment by 2030. The paper suggests scaling up implementation of an updated regional framework for action on the prevention and control of NCDs to achieve health target 3.4.
ECO delegate, Mr. Kaan Sayin, Director for Human Resources and Sustainable Development and Mr. Mojtaba Faraji, Program Officer of HRSD also took part at some of technical meetings.
Closing Ceremony and Conclusion:
At the closing session of the Regional Committee, held on October 17, members of the Regional Committee adopted the Regional Director’s annual report and endorsed the framework for action on acute rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, as well as the strategy on nutrition for the Region, 2020,“2030. The conference also urged Member States to implement both the framework and the strategy while the Regional Director was requested to provide the needed technical support to countries in this regard.
To advance universal health coverage in the Region, the Regional Committee urged Member States to develop and implement strategies to strengthen the nursing and midwifery workforce, enhance the work environment for nurses to best utilize their knowledge and skills, expand the role and scope of nursing practice, and reorient nursing and midwifery education and training.
According to final resolution adopted by regional committee, the member states are encouraged to:
- use the framework on ending preventable newborn, child and adolescent deaths and improving health and development. Newborns, children and adolescents make up around 40% of the population of the Region.
- consider the renewed focus on primary health care and universal health coverage as an opportunity to advance the survival, healthy growth and development agenda for newborns, children and adolescents in the Region and to disseminate their experiences and best practices in this area.
- ensure political commitment to planning and implementing people-centred hospitals to move towards universal health coverage.
- foster evidence-informed policy-making and establish national mechanisms for systematic use of evidence in making national health policies.
- implement the strategic interventions identified in the regional framework on NCDs, including indicators to assess country progress by 2030.
Health Cooperation in ECO Region
Aligned with international attempts for enhancing Health Systems which has been main targets of MDGs and SDGs, ECO member states have shown their commitment to these targets and started cooperating with WHO from early third millennium. Adoption of the SDGs has provided a timely opportunity for the ECO Member States to identify the needs and requirements for improved post-2015 sustainable development policy on Health and to work out the optimal approach with measures, including a time-bound plan for action, for enhanced cooperation in this areas, aligning with the global conventions.
Followed by adoption of 17 ambitious goals of SDGs for 2030 by UN General Assembly in September 2015, ECO Health Ministerial meeting in 2016, adopted the outline for an ECO Plan of Action on Health Cooperation to be developed in line with the emerging SDGs. Recently the 2nd draft ECO Plan of Action on Health Cooperation which has been revised by the I.R. of Iran, in accordance with the 29th RPC decision, was circulated in April 2019 for consideration of the Member States. Inputs of the Member States would be appreciated toward strengthening implementation of the ECO Vision 2025 on Health Cooperation and contributing to relevant SDGs including goal 3.