The Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2005URL (Internet address) : http://www.eu2005.lu/en/actualites/communiques/2005/05/17oms/
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Mars di Bartolomeo: "Our goal should be health for all!"
Mars di Bartolomeo, Minister for Health and Social Security, attended the 58th World Health Assembly on 16-17 May 2005 in Geneva, where he spoke on behalf of the European Union.
First, the Minister for Health welcomed the initiative of concentrating the general debate on mother and child health, the theme of the 2005 world health report, which highlights how much remains to be done to "give every mother and every child their opportunity" and to ensure that their level of health is as high as possible. He emphasised that one woman dies every minute from complications related to pregnancy or delivery, and that each year, there are over 3.3 million still births. Four million new-borns die within 28 days after they are brought into the world, while 6.6 million young children die before their fifth birthday. Confronted with these 9 million deaths per year, the Luxembourg Minister for Health issued an appeal "to make the provision of care to mothers and children an absolute requirement."
The right to sexual health
The Minister for Health then stated that depriving mothers and children of the health care to which they are entitled is tantamount to unacceptable discrimination and is a major obstacle to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. In the developing countries, complications that arise during pregnancy and delivery are still the leading cause of mortality among women of child-bearing age.
The Minister for Health also discussed the Cairo Action Programme, which recognises the right to sexual and reproductive health as well as women’s empowerment and gender equality as the most important components of the global effort to promote development and reduce poverty. Better access to reproductive health services and relevant information is essential for the implementation of the Action Programme and the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those that relate to maternal health, the reduction of child mortality, the promotion of gender equality, the fight against HIV/AIDS and the eradication of poverty.
HIV/AIDS=15 TSUNAMIS per year
The Minister for Health stressed that in 2005 special attention should be paid to HIV/AIDS. Statistics show with worrisome consistency that HIV/AIDS is spreading in the world and in particular among women and children. An appropriate response to this scourge requires the recognition that women are particularly vulnerable to this devastating disease.
The Minister for Health noted that the fight against HIV/AIDS, which claims the equivalent in terms of deaths of 15 tsunamis per year, requires a consistent and joint effort from the international community. The Minister also stated that WHO has a leading role to play in this effort. New and innovative solutions are necessary and must preserve a balance between prevention and access to care, including sustainable access to proposed drugs at affordable prices. The Minister for Health confirmed the European Union’s support for WHO’s "3 by 5" initiative.
The Minister for Health then broached the topic of malaria, which is a substantial contributor to the child mortality rate. Actually, 8% of the deaths of children less than five years old are due to malaria, despite the fact that malaria is both preventable and curable.
The Minister for Health stated that the EU has played an active role in the creation, financing and promotion of the effectiveness of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and that the European Commission adopted an action plan to fight these three diseases on 27 April 2005.
Additional resources are necessary to achieve the MDGs. The Minister for Health issued an appeal to avoid the duplication of the strategies and actions of all the actors committed and to make more effective use of everyone’s strengths and capabilities in order to derive maximum benefit for public health on the global level. The EU Member States wanted to point out the importance of the synergies and complementarity between their public health and development aid programmes and those of WHO.
The Minister for Health congratulated WHO for its action in crisis situations, for its institutional capacity to mobilise, centralise and act in such situations, particularly during the tsunami catastrophe in Asia. From now on it is essential to deal with the means for preventing the tragic consequences of natural disasters, including the health-related consequences.
The Minister for Health noted the essential role WHO plays in dealing with the influenza pandemic. He mentioned strengthening national and community action plans in the EU and the excellent cooperation with WHO in this area.
New International Health Regulation
In conclusion, the Minister for Health expressed the European Union’s satisfaction with the work done to finalise the International Health Regulation. Finally, he affirmed the European Union’s determination to continue its close cooperation with WHO in the interest of improved health for all.