Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, 3 February 2020, WHO Executive Board
Distinguished members of the Executive Board and delegates from other Member States,
Dr Tedros, Director General, and dear colleagues, fellow regional directors:
It is the honour of my life to serve as the WHO Regional Director for Africa and I would like to thank, through the Executive Board, all our Member States, for your trust in giving me the opportunity to lead WHO’s work in the Region for a second term.
Thank you, through Ambassador Athaliah Molokomme, to the Government of my country Botswana for having supported my candidature.
I would also like to sincerely thank my husband and family for standing by me during my first term and encouraging me to go for the second term, of course with many exhortations about work-life balance. Thank you for putting up with the challenges to our family life….
Sadly, my mother who supported me so much throughout my first term, having introduced me to Geneva and World Health Assembly meetings about 40 years ago, when she attended as a Botswana delegate and encouraged me to miss medical school classes in London for a week each time – will no longer be there to cheer me on, as she passed away last September.
Together, with our Member States and partners, and with staff members driving the change, we are transforming WHO in the African Region into an effective, results-driven and accountable organization, as part of the global WHO Transformation. Thank you to the African Ministers of Health and their officials for having embraced the change, adapting some of our tools and approaches to national systems.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to my WHO colleagues for your dedication towards making health for all a reality. I would also like to acknowledge all the front-line health workers caring for communities – some in incredibly challenging situations – I have learnt so much from my interactions with them in visits to many countries.
In the coming five years, I shall work with my colleagues and partners to help accelerate action towards achieving universal health coverage in the African Region – ensuring that no-one misses out on health care because the cost is too high or they live too far away from the capital city; and also ensuring delivery of good quality health services that result in better health outcomes.
African Heads of State have expressed their commitment to UHC, both at the African Union and the UN General Assembly last year. I am excited to see practical steps being energetically pursued by Ministers of Health, and encouraged by the number of countries asking for help in developing or updating their health financing strategies, in improving human resources for health, access to essential medicines, the functioning of their health districts, and other key areas.
Our engagement with the private sector will be expanded and strengthened, making us better able to advise and support governments in their collaboration with it, in line with the equity and affordability emphasis of member states.
We will continue working with our Member States to get the job done, ensuring that they learn from and adapt each others’ experiences.
And we have much to do – the performance of our regional health systems as assessed in line with WHO’s universal health coverage index, scores an average of 46 points out of 100, ranging from 28 to 78, compared to a global average of 66.
We are transitioning phase two of our regional Transformation Agenda into complete alignment with the global WHO Transformation; and I thank our DG Tedros for the inspiration, innovation and energy that he has brought into that process. We will strive to ensure our presence in countries makes a difference, and ensure staff are engaged and empowered to lead transformative processes.
We are restructuring the Regional Office to enhance our delivery on the Thirteenth General Programme of Work. Driving integration of work across different disease programmes and strengthening people-centred delivery of services, through systems, will be among our top priorities.
Our teams working to build resilient health systems and to prepare for and respond to diseases outbreaks and health emergencies will work in increasingly integrated ways – to ensure that national health strategies and budgets incorporate the building of International Health Regulations-related capacities, for instance; and equally, to be certain that the delivery of essential health services such as immunization withstands the shocks of outbreaks, disasters and humanitarian crises.
We will do more to ensure communities have access to life-saving public health interventions and to prevent, control and eliminate diseases, including reaching the milestone of polio eradication this year. This will include addressing the social determinants of health and working across sectors – in particular, through collaboration with sister UN agencies in the context of UN reform, and supporting multisectoral approaches.
We will continue to build on our strong partnership with the African Union Commission and regional economic communities, facilitating cross-border and regional collaboration to prepare for and respond to epidemics. Together, we will make globalization work better for health in Africa, for example, to achieve better pricing, safety and quality of medical products through pooled procurement mechanisms and supporting the establishment of the African Medicines Agency.
We’ve realized, following the tremendous response to our call for innovations to improve health in the region, that harnessing and scaling up high-impact innovations will have significant benefits. We will expand our work in this area, including using digital health to strengthen capacities and foster the development and sustainable uptake of health innovations. Speeding up integration of new tools and technologies into health services in countries is a natural fit with our roles in developing national policies and strategies and strengthening national and regional regulatory functions; this work will be expanded.
At the country level, with the support of partners, we will implement the outcomes of the functional reviews of our country offices, to ensure our teams are fit for purpose and ready to respond to national priorities and needs. Guided by the Global Action Plan on SDG3, we will harmonize our efforts at country and regional levels, within the UN family and with other partners, including civil society and the private sector.
Your support, dear Member States, partners and colleagues, will be vital to take forward all that we are aiming for. I am thankful for our frank and constructive collaboration, and I look forward to continuing to work together to improve the health and well-being of the 1.1 billion people in the African Region.
Thank you, merci beaucoup.