22 August 2018

Africa: Our First Year Together

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It's been just over a year since Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus took office as WHO Director-General. Here's his first annual letter outlining the achievements made towards WHO's mission "to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable".

Ladies and gentlemen,

It's now been just over a year since I received the greatest honour of my life and was elected to become the eighth Director-General of the World Health Organization. Today, I remain proud and humbled that the nations of the world entrusted me with the responsibility of leading this great organization.

They have high expectations of WHO. So they should; so do I.

There is no commodity in the world more precious than health. An institution charged with defending the health of 7 billion people therefore bears great responsibility and must be held to high standards. The most powerful reminders of that responsibility in the past year have been the people I have met all over the world whose health we work to protect.

I think of the camp for internally-displaced I visited in Borno State, Maiduguri, Nigeria, and the baby I met there. Despite all the hardship her family has endured, there was innocence and happiness in her eyes.

I think of the desperation on the face of the mother I met in Yemen, who walked for hours with her malnourished child to reach the health centre, begging the staff to take care of her child.

I think of the WHO staff and health workers who have worked around the clock to stop the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

I'm proud of the way the whole Organization has responded to this outbreak, at headquarters, the regional office and the country office. And I particularly want to thank our partners, Médecins Sans Frontiéres, the World Food Programme, the Red Cross, UNICEF and many others who have responded quickly.

The outbreak in DRC illustrates once again that health security and universal health coverage are two sides of the same coin. The best thing we can do to prevent future outbreaks is to strengthen health systems everywhere.

It also reminded me of what is at stake every day I come to work. It reminded me that we must act with a sense of urgency in everything we do, because every moment we lose is a matter of life and death.

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