(CMC) — Health ministers from across the Americas, including the Caribbean end their two-day virtual meeting later today after being urged to cooperate fully in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dominican-born Dr Carissa F Etienne told the 58th Directing Council, that the countries in the Americas must collaborate more to fight the virus that has killed more than a million people worldwide and adapt, innovate and reorient public health work.
“The post-COVID world will be shaped by decisions being made in the fight against the virus. The profound uncertainty about the virus and its trajectory, and about how other countries will respond, only magnifies the importance of leadership. At the very least, leaders of our region and indeed from across the world must cooperate to fight against the virus and to collectively eliminate it,” Dr Etienne said.
She said the pandemic requires “adaptations, innovation and reorientation of our technical cooperation as it cannot be business as usual”.
“They must make the case to their citizens that security at home requires cooperation abroad. The monumental loss of human lives resulting from this pandemic should be a sufficiently powerful reminder of the imperative need for meaningful and equitable change at the level of society and individuals,” Dr Etienne said.
The outgoing President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, stressed that “the pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of health systems”.
He warned of a significant risk of setbacks, as well as poverty, and inequities and health outcomes.
Moreno said that overcoming the pandemic crisis will require leadership, joint work between countries and innovation in the region. He highlighted COVAX, the mechanism to facilitate access to the COVID-19 vaccine, as an “excellent example of how countries and multilateral agencies can work on innovative solutions”.
The IDB is working with countries to finance their participation in this mechanism, he explained, and has also approved more than US$20 billion in loans so that countries can cope with the impact of the pandemic on health and other areas.
Moreno called for strengthening health systems and increasing public health spending, among other measures, to ensure that countries are prepared for future emergencies.
Discussions on countries’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be addressed in depth on Tuesday.