MANILA, Philippines l 24 October 2022 – Health ministers and senior officials from 37 countries and areas across Asia and the Pacific are meeting this week to address key health issues and priorities for the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Western Pacific Region.
The 73rd session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific from 24 to 28 October is a hybrid meeting, with many delegates joining in person in Manila, Philippines, and others connecting online.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus travelled to Manila and addressed the Regional Committee on day one: “Excellencies. Your agenda this week reflects the wide range of challenges you face as a region. I give you my commitment that your WHO will continue to support you, through our country and regional offices, and at headquarters, to promote, provide, protect, power and perform for health.”
In her remarks to the Committee, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO’s Deputy Director General and Officer-in-Charge of the Western Pacific Regional Office, said “The Region has made impressive achievements in the past year, rapidly rolling out COVID-19 vaccines, redesigning healthcare pathways to prepare for future pandemics, and driving forward the shared vision For the Future.”
In a presentation by the Region’s Directors on key achievements Dr Corinne Capuano, WHO Director of Programme Management for the Western Pacific, said “WHO in the Region has been responding to COVID-19 while continuing to drive forward our shared vision For the Future. The world and the Western Pacific look quite different compared to this time last year. More borders are open, more people are vaccinated, and, thankfully, far fewer are dying from COVID-19. In this Region, we have fared relatively well. Our collective investments and efforts – by leaders across the Region, by communities, and by individuals – have paid off. We have also built on our culture of learning and improving, and we have undertaken significant work to improve our workplace culture since we last met last year.”
During the seventy-third session of the Regional Committee this week, delegates will consider for endorsement resolutions on issues including:
• mental health
• cervical cancer
• noncommunicable disease prevention and control
• primary health care
• reaching the unreached.
In addition, this year’s session will feature a panel discussion on Communication for Health (C4H), and delegates will discuss progress in several programmes such as: health security, including COVID-19 and antimicrobial resistance; climate change, the environment and health; and advancing implementation of For the Future: Towards the Healthiest and Safest Region, the vision for WHO’s work with Member States and partners in the Western Pacific.
The Honourable Dr Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, Minister of Health of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, was elected Chair for this year’s session of the Regional Committee. Accepting the role, Dr Phoummalaysith said, “I am humbled by your trust and confidence in me to chair this seventy-third session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific. I thank you all, and it is my pleasure to welcome you – physically and virtually – to Manila. I also wish to thank the outgoing Chairperson – the honourable Minister of Health of Tuvalu – and other officers of the last session. I will do my best to follow in your footsteps this week.”
The Honourable Dr Saia Ma’u Piukala, Minister of Health, Tonga, was elected Vice-Chair.
Working with 194 Member States across six regions, WHO is the United Nations specialized agency responsible for public health. Each WHO region has its own regional committee – a governing body composed of ministers of health and senior officials from the region’s Member States. Each regional committee meets annually to agree on health actions and chart priorities for WHO’s work.
The WHO Western Pacific Region is home to more than 1.9 billion people across 37 countries and areas in Asia and the Pacific: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Fiji, France (which has responsibility for French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna), Hong Kong SAR (China), Japan, Kiribati, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Macao SAR (China), Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Mongolia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (which has responsibility for Pitcairn Islands), the United States of America (which has responsibility for American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam), Vanuatu and Viet Nam.
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