By Cecilia Ologunagba
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged countries to invest more in health facilities and services to build a fairer and healthier post-COVID-19 world.
WHO made the call in a statement issued from its headquarters in Geneva to commemorate the World Health Day (WHD), globally celebrated on April 7.
WHD is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on April 7, under the sponsorship of the WHO, as well as other related organisations.
According to the statement, COVID-19 has unfairly impacted some people more harshly than others, exacerbating existing inequities in health and welfare within and between countries.
“For WHD, WHO is therefore issuing five calls for urgent action to improve health for all people’’.
The UN health agency stated that within countries, illness and death from the COVID-19 pandemic had been higher among groups who face discrimination, poverty, social exclusion, and adverse daily living and working conditions – including humanitarian crises.
“The pandemic is estimated to have driven between 119 and 124 million more people into extreme poverty last year.
“And there is convincing evidence that it has widened gender gaps in employment, with women exiting the labour force in greater numbers than men over the past 12 months.
“These inequities in people’s living conditions, health services, and access to power, money and resources are long-standing.
“The result: under-five mortality rates among children from the poorest households are double than that of children from the richest households.
“Life expectancy for people in low-income countries is 16 years lower than for people in high-income countries. For example, nine out of 10 deaths globally from cervical cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.
“But as countries continue to fight the pandemic, a unique opportunity emerges to build back better for a fairer, healthier world by implementing existing commitments, resolutions, and agreements while also making new and bold commitments’’.
The statement, however, quoted Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, as saying, “the COVID-19 pandemic has thrived amid the inequalities in our societies and the gaps in our health systems.
“It is vital for all governments to invest in strengthening their health services and to remove the barriers that prevent so many people from using them, so more people have the chance to live healthy lives.”
According to the statement, WHO is issuing five calls for actions on accelerating equitable access to the COVID-19 technologies between and within countries and investing in primary health care.
The world health agency also would issue actions on building safe, healthy and inclusive neighbourhoods; strengthen data and health information systems as well as prioritising health and social protection.
In addition, the statement quoted Ghebreyesus as saying, “ now is the time to invest in health as a motor of development.
“We do not need to choose between improving public health, building sustainable societies, ensuring food security and adequate nutrition, tacking climate change and having thriving local economies.
“All these vital outcomes go hand in hand.” (NAN)