UNGA meeting: “Friends of the Task Force”
Your Excellency Mikhail Murashko, Minister of Health of the Russian Federation,
Your Excellency Aksel Jakobsen, State Secretary of International Development of Norway,
Your Excellency Dr Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire, Minister of Health of Nigeria,
Your Excellency Ahmed Al Saidi, Minister of Health of Oman,
Your Excellency Emanuela Del Re, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy,
Excellencies, colleagues from UN agencies, distinguished guests, dear colleagues and friends of the task force,
It is an honour to welcome you to today’s meeting.
First, I would like to thank the Russian Federation for generously co-hosting this event and for its leadership on noncommunicable diseases and the Task Force in particular.
My thanks also to the Member States and UN agencies that are co-sponsoring today’s event.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown why action on NCDs is so important.
People living with diabetes, hypertension and other NCDs are especially at risk.
That risk has been compounded by disruptions to essential health services, including the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, diabetes, and other non-communicable diseases.
These disruptions have deprived many people of the care and medicines they need.
The pandemic has laid bare how far too many countries have failed to meet the needs of people living with NCDs.
But the gaps are not just in treatment and care. All nations still have much work to do to prevent NCDs. Far too many people are dying prematurely from preventable diseases, in almost every country.
Last week, WHO and The Lancet published a study showing that only 17 countries are on track to meet target 3.4 of the Sustainable Development Goals target on NCDs for women. Even fewer are on target for men.
The tragedy is that much of this suffering is totally preventable. And we know what the answers are.
Stop tobacco use.
Reduce the harmful use of alcohol.
Cut salt intake.
Consume less sugar.
Increase physical activity.
Eliminate industrial trans-fats.
Treat more people for high blood pressure.
All these interventions are part of WHO’s ‘Best Buys’ – a set of 16 of the most effective ways to save lives, and to save money.
In its resolution on the work of the Task Force this year, the UN Economic and Social Council called upon the Task Force to identify additional technical resources needed during the pandemic.
I was therefore delighted to have recently launched the joint WHO, UNDP and Task Force publication, Responding to NCDs during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over 30 Task Force members contributed to this report.
It builds on WHO’s operational guidance on how to maintain essential health services for NCDs and mental health during the pandemic.
The report is aimed at governments, policy-makers, UN agencies and development partners.
It explains why strong action on NCDs must be an integral part of the COVID-19 response and recovery.
We cannot just put out the fire. We must also address its root causes, and the factors that put some people at higher risk.
At last year’s General Assembly, world leaders came together for a historic political declaration on universal health coverage.
The pandemic has shown why that commitment is so important.
Part of building back better means building strong health systems in every country, on the foundation of primary health care, to prevent and treat NCDs.
Investments will be needed.
This year’s ECOSOC resolution encouraged partners to mobilize resources to support Member States to catalyze sustainable domestic responses to NCDs and mental health conditions through a multi-partner trust fund.
This will be a catalytic fund that will support requests for technical assistance from Member States to WHO and the wider UN system, but which remain unanswered due to lack of funds.
As I said in my report to ECOSOC on the work of the Task Force, WHO is working with a number of members of the Task Force to establish that fund.
Once it is established, I will call on all of you to mobilize additional resources beyond WHO’s budget so that we can scale up our support to countries for their response to NCDs.
I am pleased that ECOSOC Member States continue to press for the Task Force to deliver ever-more effectively at the country level.
Delivering results in countries must remain our focus.
In February of this year, the Task Force and the WHO Global TB Programme undertook a joint mission to Nigeria with 15 agencies and bilateral development partners.
This was the first UN-led mission to highlight the importance of communicable and noncommunicable disease programmes working together as part of a national commitment to universal health coverage.
I look forward to collaborating with many of you here today to deliver on the mission’s recommendations.
Just as we identify and address challenges, we must also celebrate success.
I am delighted that today we are awarding 15 organizations with a Task Force Award.
Congratulations to all the recipients, and thank you for all your efforts to save lives.
Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 is a setback to our efforts to beat NCDs.
But we cannot allow it to become an excuse for failing to deliver on our commitments.
On the contrary, we must use it as motivation to work all the harder, as if lives depend on it – because they do.
I thank you.