9 July 2020

Deputy Secretary-General, Addressing Group of Friends, Stresses Right-Based Universal Health Care Key for Disease Control, Socioeconomic Development

Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed’s video message to the Group of Friends of Universal Health Care, in New York today:

A very warm welcome and I thank the Government of Japan for bringing us together.

Today, we face a global health and human crisis unmatched by any other in the United Nations 75-year history.  COVID-19 has been the ultimate stress test of our social and economic ecosystems.  Extending well beyond the health sector, the pandemic threatens progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.  COVID-19 leaves few lives and places untouched.

But, its impact is harshest for those groups who were already vulnerable before the crisis.  The pandemic has demonstrated the inadequacies of health systems to respond robustly and maintain continuity of essential services, often at the expense of the most vulnerable.

Routine childhood immunization services have been disrupted on a global scale, putting at least 80 million children under one year old at risk of diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio.  Focus on non-communicable diseases is being neglected, threatening to roll back gains made during the last decade.  And COVID-19 will have serious implications on mental health and well-being for many years to come.

Failure to sustain essential primary health care — including women’s, children’s and adolescent health services — will have a major impact on maternal and child mortality across the globe.

We are at a critical juncture.  The Decade for Action for the Sustainable Development Goals, which calls for accelerating sustainable solutions to the world’s biggest challenges, is now more important than ever.

We must mobilize even more ambitious action for comprehensive and inclusive strategies to build back better from COVID-19.  Together, we can turn this into a watershed moment to rebuild in a more equitable manner and to achieve universal health coverage.  At the global level, we need political leadership and solidarity.  We need multilateralism.  We are truly in this together.

The United Nations system is committed to leading the way.  We have designed a comprehensive approach to respond to the immediate health crisis and the resulting socioeconomic impacts.  This cuts across the World Health Organization (WHO) Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, the Global Humanitarian Response Plan and the United Nations framework for the immediate socioeconomic response to COVID-19.

I am also pleased to announce that the Secretary-General will be issuing a policy brief on COVID-19 and universal health coverage.  COVID-19 has highlighted the urgency for Governments to fulfil the commitments made in the 2019 Political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage.  Accelerating progress towards universal health coverage and ensuring global health security go hand in hand.

To achieve both, we must invest in strengthening health systems.  This cannot wait.  Only an inclusive, rights-based public health and socioeconomic response will help us suppress the virus, restart our economies and stay on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

Universal health coverage is a path we must follow to deliver on these goals.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.