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WHO and world leaders reinforce urgency of universal health coverage at Expo Dubai 2020

At such an important time due to the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic
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The world is running out of time to implement universal health coverage, especially if faced with another pandemic, and knowledge sharing and collaboration are critical to progress, said leaders gathered at the Dubai Expo 2020 International Universal Health Coverage Day, in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In addition to a series of discussions with global health leaders and advocates for universal health coverage, WHO and the World Bank announced the findings of two complementary reports at Expo 2020 showing that the pandemic is likely to halt two decades of global progress towards universal health coverage, and that more than 500 million people are pushed into extreme poverty because they have to pay for health services out of their own pockets.

His Excellency Abdul Rahman bin Muhammad al-Owais, UAE Minister of Health and Prevention, said the UAE is eager to intensify efforts and achieve optimal implementation of WHO recommendations, and work with member states by joining efforts and harnessing knowledge and technology to raise healthcare standards. Her Excellency delivered the keynote address at the day's flagship event, which was attended by Her Excellency Reem al-Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai.  

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H.E. Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Obaid al-Saidi, Minister of Health of Oman, who shared Oman's efforts to ensure accessible, affordable and equitable healthcare, said: "Transparency and communication with the community will provide a clear vehicle to improve quality.... a clear idea about their health priorities and their effective participation will improve the appropriate utilisation of services and contribute to better planning and implementation of services. Presenting our experiences, challenges and solutions in such a forum [the UHC panel at Expo 2020] allows each of us to learn from each other and should encourage us to support each other in achieving universal health coverage.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said: "No one should be faced with a choice that is, in effect, their money or their life. Our analysis shows that too many families and individuals continue to make that choice every day ... and the pandemic highlighted that health is not a product of strong and prosperous nations, because a healthy population is a safe, resilient and thriving population... The world was not prepared [for COVID-19] and we are paying for it. That's why the pandemic treaty is important, because it means we have one rule, one law and countries with obligations.

Fresh from the International Humanitarian City (IHC), Dr Tedros Adhanom added: "We are reaching out from the IHC to more than 120 countries, and I want to thank the United Arab Emirates, without whom we would not have come close to this number.

Dr Awad Mataria, Director of Universal Health Coverage and Health Systems at the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, said: "We feel very privileged and honoured to partner with Expo 2020 to announce the reports and celebrate Universal Health Coverage Day in our region - the biggest celebration globally in 2021. The Universal Health Coverage agenda is something old and new... its implementation has atrophied and we are still learning what works and what doesn't. Through the vast opportunities to interact with countries at the Expo, we will be able to draw lessons that we can pass on to our policymakers, helping them to accelerate progress towards Universal Health Coverage. We are very grateful for this opportunity and look forward to our continued collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Prevention."

Text, photos and video: Dubai Expo 2020.