Back 19 May 2014

67th World Health Assembly Opens in Geneva

The World Health Assembly opened today, May 19th. There is a lot of business done, but there were some interesting presentations. Climate change and its effects on health is very much on the agenda. A supply of clean water is a big issue for many countries now. It was, therefore, disturbing to learn that by 2030 50% of the world's population will have problems with water supply. Margaret Chan addressed the assembly this afternoon and among the many points she highlighted was the increase in polio, a disease that was almost controlled. There have been many outbreaks again and, of course, the killing of health care workers who vaccinate children and adults, in some parts of the world, has had a hugely negative impact. At a lunch time meeting today the World Health Professions Alliance had Christine Beerli (VP of the International Committee of the Red Cross) deliver an address 'Health Care in Danger'. Health care workers are under threat in many aspects of their working lives; in situations of unrest and war and even from patients and their families.

On Tuesday, May 20th, Doctor Christine Kaseba-Sata, the First Lady of Zambia and WHO Goodwill Ambassador against gender-based violence addressed delegates to the World Health Assembly on that topic. She was passionate about the need to end what she referred to as 'a scourge' and challenging in her remarks. She asked that delegates work to eliminate all forms of violence, especially gender based violence.

Doctor Christine Kaseba-Satwas was followed by Melinda Gates, who spoke about public health issues in general and about mother and newborn health in particular. She noted the reduction in child deaths, but called for renewed action for the survival of newborns. Five simple steps could save thousands of lives each year: 

1) Use of a bag and mask to help a baby breathe if respiration is not spontaneous
2) Drying the baby
3) Using chlorhexidine for cord cleaning
4) Initiation of breast feeding within the first hour of life
5) Kangaroo care

Mrs Gates pledged that the Gates Foundation will continue to fund projects.

Report prepared by Mary Higgins, ICM Board Member (Central Europe)

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