21 May 2012

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Remarkable Progress Made Across Health Agenda, Says Secretary-General, Thanking

World Health Assembly for ‘Good Start’, Urging it to ‘Finish the Job’

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the World Health Assembly, delivered by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, 21 May:

It is a pleasure to convey my warm greetings to the sixty-fifth World Health Assembly.

Health is a core element of my action agenda that I launched as I began my second term as Secretary-General in January.  Ensuring better health is critical for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and advancing sustainable development.

The issues that you are discussing at this Assembly are central to our common effort.  To fulfil the health priorities that I have set out, I believe we have important challenges and opportunities ahead.

First, we must complete the final drive to eliminate five major preventable diseases:  malaria; polio; new paediatric HIV infections; maternal and neonatal tetanus; and measles.  Second, we must fully implement the Global Strategy for Women and Children's Health.  Third, we must put an end to the hidden tragedy of stunting that affects almost 200 million children.

As you will hear during this week, there is much good news.  Fewer women worldwide are dying in pregnancy and childbirth.  More are receiving antiretroviral treatment to prevent the transmission of HIV to their children.  More children are being immunized against measles, tetanus and polio.  More households are being protected from malaria and more people are getting treatment.  This Assembly’s focus on nutrition — among mothers, infants and young children — highlights renewed determination to address the global hunger challenge.

The progress we have achieved did not happen on its own.  We have made headway when we have agreed on goals, focused on results and recognized the importance of measuring achievement and improving accountability.

Partnership is essential.  We have demonstrated that together, Governments, the United Nations family, the private sector and civil society can succeed in tackling tremendous challenges.  The Roll Back Malaria partnership, the Measles Initiative, the GAVI Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative all show how effective joint action can be.  The Every Woman Every Child movement has rallied around the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, with the goal of saving the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015.

We know that national ownership and leadership are fundamental to meeting people’s real health needs.  We also know that while financial support is essential, so are investments in innovative technology, medicine, social policy and service delivery.

Remarkable progress is being made across the health agenda.  Thanks to your efforts, we have made a good start.  Let us finish the job.

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For information media • not an official record