|Hon. Minister of Health chairs the High level panel at the WHO|
|Monday, 19 January 2009|
Executive Board of the World Health organisation is convening a high-level consultative meeting from 19th to 27th of January 2009 to set the world health agenda for the 62nd World Health Assembly and also to address the emerging challenges with regard to global health. In view of the present global financial crisis which has affected the member countries as well as the UN and other donor agencies, Dr. Margaret Chan, the Director General of the World Health Organisation, with the concurrence of the bureau members of the WHO, decided to hold this high level consultative meeting with financial and health experts and executive board members and the civil society with a view to find a solution to the present crisis.
Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva, chairman of the Executive Board of the WHO and also Minister of Healthcare and Nutrition, Sri Lanka, was invited to chair this High Level Consultative meeting.
The other members of the panel were Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organisation, Mr. Richard Horton, Editor in chief of the lancet medical journal, Mr. Andrew Steer, Director-General, Policy and Research, UK Department for International Development (DFID), Her Excellency Maria Farani Azevedo, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Brazil, Richard Newfarmer, Special Representative of the World Bank to the UN and WTO & Mr. Manoj Kuriam of the Health and Healing, World Council of Churches.
The objectives of this meeting are to build awareness of the likely consequences of the financial and economic crisis and the different ways in which health and health services are likely to be affected; to highlight the importance of sustaining investments in order to protect the health of vulnerable populations; to promote economic recovery; to promote social stability; to generate efficiency and to build security. The meeting was also a venue for members to share experiences, policy options and interventions used by member states, civil society and international organisations and to monitor and mitigate negative impacts of the current crisis.
The full speech of Hon. Nimal Siripala de Silva, Minister of Healthcare and Nutrition of Sri Lanka is below:
“Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO, Your Excellencies, Distinguished members of the panel, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.
At the outset, I take the opportunity to thank the Director General, Dr Margaret Chan, for convening this high level consultative meeting on “the Financial Crisis and Global Health” with a view to building awareness on possible ways in which the economic crisis may impact the health sector; also to identify actions that could help to prevent and mitigate the negative impact of the economic downturn.
I am indeed grateful for affording me this opportunity to chair this important meeting.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are indeed living in an unprecedented period with three major crises confronting us- food, energy and most importantly, the financial crisis. The financial crisis in particular has affected across the globe without exception, not only the economies of the developing countries, but also those of the developed countries as well.
We are here to discuss the ways in which we could prevent and minimise the adverse impact of this economic tsunami, which would devastate the social sector, particularly the health of our people. Therefore it is very timely that we collectively explore the ways and means of ensuring that the health systems are protected to the greatest degree possible from the impact of this financial crisis.
Expenditure on health should be always seen as an investment for human development which will have reflex actions on economic gains. Therefore it is essential that we look at health expenditure as a priority, over and above other types of expenditure in our national budgets.
We must also be mindful that in many countries private expenditure constitutes a significant part of all health expenditure. With loss of avenues of income as a result of this financial crisis, many people in our countries will lose their capacity to afford these private health expenditures. This will further burden the government sector and will make it absolutely necessary to safeguard the investments in health.
We have a global commitment to achieve the millennium development goals and it is unfortunate that the crisis has come at a time when our countries are striving hard to reach these goals in good time. This makes it almost imperative that the funding of the health sector is not compromised at any cost.
In most of the Regions, including South East Asia Region, we need to ensure that nutrition and immunisation are not in any way affected, for these could have considerable long term consequences for all our populations. Communicable diseases in general, particularly polio, avian flu, HIV and the like are also equally important as many of these are potentially critical and could lead to pandemics and do not recognise any geographic boundaries.
My own country, Sri Lanka, has been seriously affected by the present global financial crisis. Our main export commodities, tea, rubber, coconut and cinnamon now fetch very low prices in the world market but also have less demand. The demand from finished goods such as garments is declining and will have serious repercussions in this sector. Despite these economic setbacks and the high defence expenditure to fight against a terrorist movement, my government has not compromised on our investments in health in any way. We deliver free health care to the whole nation, having no user fees at all. In fact in 2009 the total budgetary allocation for the health sector increased to 87 billion rupees equivalent to 800 million US dollars from 67 billion rupees equivalent to 600 million US dollars in 2008, a real increase of over 25%, and this despite the problems that I mentioned, demonstrating the commitment of the government of Sri Lanka to protect the social sector.
As the Chair of the EB, it is my duty to emphasise that WHO being the global leader for health, we must zealously guard and protect its capacity for meeting its responsibilities. I am sure all of us are deeply conscious of this and the Member States and our partners who provide considerable funds to the WHO will not allow WHO’s capacity to be compromised in the midst of this crisis.
UN Agencies, Private- Public partnerships and non-governmental organisations have strengthened the health systems in many developing countries. It is our fervent wish that their capacities to continue their humanitarian missions will not be affected.
Leading global financial agencies such as the World Bank, the IMF, Asian Development Bank and the international community also have a responsibility to find innovative ways and means to bridge the gaps that will be created by this financial crisis.
We have a very distinguished panel from the key areas relevant to the financial crisis and I am sure will find extremely rich contributions to stimulate this discussion. I am sure we will have a very interactive and fruitful discussion.”
|Last Updated ( Friday, 14 August 2009 )|
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