Geneva, May 22, 2017 (PAHO/WHO) - In anticipation of what she described as "a very important week in an Assembly unlike any previous one," the Director of the Pan American Health Organization, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne reviewed the items on the agenda of the 70th World Health Assembly from the perspective of the interests of the Region of the Americas, together with the delegations representing the countries.
Over 4,000 delegates have registered for this World Health Assembly, which will elect a new Director-General of the World Health Organization, examine three technical WHO reports, and hold 26 parallel events between May 22 and May 31.
"It will be an extremely busy week for all," Etienne said, urging the countries to examine each subject from the perspective of the Region of the Americas and to consider issuing regional statements when they think it appropriate to do so.
Etienne was accompanied by Delia Rivas, Minister of Health of Honduras, the country serving as Chair of PAHO's Directing Council, and by Brazil's Minister of Health, Ricardo Barros, who chairs the group of countries representing the Region.
In reviewing the agenda, the Director discussed the issue of emergency response, commenting that PAHO has provided timely response to all the emergencies occurring in recent months, from the earthquake in Ecuador to Hurricane Matthew, which ravaged countries such as Haiti, the Bahamas, and Cuba. She indicated that PAHO had aligned its structure with that of WHO, while retaining PAHO's own approach to risk prevention and reduction, which, she said, is based on a long tradition and the lessons learned from a program that has operated in the Region for more than 40 years.
Referring to the resolution on antimicrobial resistance slated to be discussed at the Assembly, she observed that at least 17 of the Region's countries are in the process of completing national action plans to address this problem.
The PAHO Director also noted the debate among the countries on topics such as access to drugs and vaccines, an area in which PAHO has been active for years, through systems such as the Revolving Fund for vaccine procurement--which makes vaccines available at reduced cost through large purchases made possible by the countries' aggregate demand--and the PAHO Strategic Fund, which operates in a similar way. Etienne emphasized that PAHO has also supported discussions on access to costly medications in the MERCOSUR and UNASUR subregions.
Etienne also commented on the global plan for vector control, emphasizing the leadership of the countries of the Americas in the recent mosquito-related outbreaks (Zika, chikungunya, and dengue). "This is an extremely important plan for us," she said.
The Director also mentioned noncommunicable diseases and their impact on the countries of the Region of the Americas. She reminded her listeners that work is already under way with the Member States to collect information on the situation and on the various actions associated with it, in preparation for the United Nations High-level Meeting on the subject in 2018. In this connection, she pointed out that Uruguay is organizing a global forum on the subject, to take place in October of this year, and urged countries to attend.
Etienne commented on measures to achieve equitable access to health, citing the Sustainable Health Agenda for the Americas, which 16 of the Region's countries are developing under Ecuador's leadership and which will be presented during the Assembly.
As Chair of the group of countries representing the Americas, Barros highlighted the support provided by PAHO during the Zika outbreak in Brazil and, more recently, in the yellow fever outbreak that the country is facing. He noted the progress made in recent months in reducing the number of cases of both Zika and chikungunya, but emphasized that "Brazil continues to focus its efforts on combating mosquitoes."
The country delegations described their various parallel events and invited the other representatives to attend them. These meetings among the countries of the Region take place every morning during the Assembly, providing a forum for the countries to exchange views on resolutions and seek agreement on them.