Representing IAPO at WHO EMRO in Kuwait
Written by Jolanta Bilińska, IAPO Chair, who attended WHO EMRO on behalf of IAPO.
I attended the 62nd session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean from 5-8 October 2015. There were representatives of all 22 countries from the region. More than 250 public health leaders and experts participated in this event, including ministers of health, representatives of national, regional and international organizations like IAPO, IFMSA, IOM, WONCA etc., and experts from WHO’s headquarters and Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean.
Prepared for emergencies
Members of the Regional Committee reviewed the annual report of the Regional Director, which highlighted the collaborative work of the Regional Office and Member States during 2014 and the first half of 2015.
The meeting gave special focus to emergency preparedness and response in light of the unprecedented increase of armed conflicts in the Region, which are putting enormous pressure on health systems and resulting in huge numbers of refugees. Around half of the world’s refugees belong to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic and are mostly hosted by four countries of the Region, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan. I delivered an IAPO statement about emergency preparedness which was widely commended by participants and WHO EMRO secretariat. It discussed how to find common ground to meet the health needs of conflict-affected populations.
The meeting was also dedicated to the challenges and priorities for improving medical education in the Region, including a technical paper on scaling up mental healthcare and filling the treatment gap – the proportion of people who require care but do not receive treatment.
Civil society plays a key role in addressing NCDs
Many delegates mentioned that without civil society it is not possible to address non-communicable diseases (NCDs). This is a green light for us to be more involved. Dr Alwan, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, will prepare technical guidance to Member States on how to address NCDs with tobacco control, promoting healthy lifestyles, and protection of public health.
Some delegates reported that the Philippines had raised prices for tobacco products by 350% and now have much better health outcomes. The Minister of Health for Pakistan also reported that, in her country, shisha is a big problem. It is popular among Pakistani people and very damaging for health.
I met with many different representatives and spoke about IAPO with them. This included WHO EMRO and representatives from Ministries of Health in the Region such as Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, and the Saudi Arabia delegation. I talked with many NGOs who are interested in IAPO’s regional work in the future. They highlighted the need for capacity-building, information on Universal Health Coverage and more patient-centred healthcare information.
Image one: IAPO Chair Jolanta Bilińska with Dr. Nedal Odeh, from the International Organization for Migration, and Prof. Ossama Rasslan, Arab Medical Union.
Image two: IAPO Chair Jolanta Bilińska, Tamas Landesz, Director of Administration and Finance for the WHO Regional Office for Eastern Mediterranean, representatives from the Kuwait Ministry of Health.