South Africa: New WHO Representative to South Africa, Dr Owen Kaluwa, Presents His Credentials

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New WHO Representative to South Africa, Dr Owen Kaluwa, presents his credentials

Dr Owen Kaluwa, the new World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in South Africa presented his credentials to the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Candith Mashego-Dlamini, today.

Welcoming Dr Kaluwa to South Africa, the Deputy Minister, expressed her appreciation of WHO's quality of deployments- presenting with vast experience that matches the needs of the Country particularly in advancing 'Health for All'. According to the Deputy Minister, South Africa has tried its best to comply with WHO recommendations in terms of the Health Infrastructure, Communicable Diseases Control, and Joint Cross Border Health issues among others. She is, therefore, looking forward to Dr Kaluwa's support in strengthening South Africa's efforts in addressing these and other emerging health challenges.

On behalf of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, and Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Kaluwa acknowledged South Africa's great role in public health- not only for its citizens, but also for the region, as reflected by the leadership and achievements it has shown to other countries in the fight against HIV and in many other areas.

He noted South Africa's capacities that are available to support other countries in the region. He gave an example of the current global Coronavirus Outbreak where countries in the region send samples of suspected cases for confirmatory testing at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. He also recognized South Africa as well positioned to continue to support the WHO Regional Office for Africa in advancing the continental health agenda, now that it is the Chair of the African Union.

Dr Kaluwa also shared the three broad focus areas of the work of WHO namely; to ensure universal health coverage, to address public health emergencies and to promote good health and wellbeing for all people.

He is aware of South Africa work on introducing the National Health Insurance (NHI), a key instrument that is going to ensure every person has access to the good quality health services they need, without suffering financial hardship. This is also a key priority for WHO and the Organization will continue to partner and work with the government of South Africa towards the realization of NHI, he said.

On addressing public health emergencies, he informed the Deputy Minister that WHO focusses on strengthening core capacities in countries so that they can prevent, detect and rapidly contain any public health event that may occur. Already with the current Coronavirus outbreak, WHO is working closely with the Government and other partners to support and strengthen the Country's preparedness effort.

On ensuring that there is promotion of good health and wellbeing for all people, he stressed the importance of addressing the determinants of health. He informed the Deputy Minister that most of the determinants of health are not under the control of the health sector, for example ensuring adoption of healthy lifestyles, good nutrition, food security and addressing environmental factors depend on other sectors. If these determinants are not addressed, they will have negative health consequences. Therefore, it is important to work with other sectors to ensure the determinants of health are tackled to reduce the burden on the health sector.

The Deputy Minister assured Dr Kaluwa of her support understanding that he will be working closely with the Department of Health. Nevertheless, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation is his home while here in South Africa.

Earlier in January, Dr Kaluwa met the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, and discussed the country's health priorities and the work of WHO in South Africa for the current biennium, 2020-2021. Dr Mkhize acknowledged WHO's critical technical support to the national Government in various health areas. Dr Kaluwa assured Dr Mkhize that under his leadership there will be reinvigorated collaboration between WHO and NDoH to further accelerate progress in implementing the NHI related Health systems reforms aimed at UHC, strengthening preparedness to public health emergencies, tackling the burden of communicable and non-communicable disease, and promoting health through the life course- to ensure that all people in South African live long and Healthy lives.

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