Africa: WHO Director-General's Opening Remarks At the Memorandum of Understanding Signing Ceremony

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International Organization of the Francophonie (IOF) and WHO

Your Excellency Louise Mushikiwabo, my dear sister,

Your Excellency George Nakseu Nguefang,

Your Excellency Leslie Norton,

Your Excellency Ambassador Leopold Samba,

Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Bonjour à tous, et bienvenue ma soeur.

Welcome, my sister, and thank you so much for your leadership and partnership. Merci beaucoup indeed.

I am delighted that we have finally come to this day. As you know, we had hoped that we would sign this Memorandum of Understanding in February, but circumstances did not allow.

And I'm delighted not just that you are here in person to sign the MoU, but also for what it represents: today we are taking the partnership between WHO and the International Organisation of the Francophonie to a new level. This is very historic.

That has never been more important.

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that trust, partnership and solidarity are essential for confronting shared public health threats.

Strong multilateral organizations like ours are more important than ever for bringing communities and nations together.

The political leadership of the Francophone countries is critical, not only for ending the pandemic, but for making progress towards universal health coverage and the other Sustainable Development Goals.

This Memorandum of Understanding is not just a piece of paper.

It commits us to close partnership in three key areas: universal health coverage, malaria, and cooperation with the WHO Academy.

I will start with the WHO Academy, which I believe will be a game-changer for global health.

The Academy, which will be based in Lyon, aims to train millions of health workers around the world with a state-of-the-art digital learning platform.

We look forward to being able to utilize the knowledge and expertise of Francophone countries in education, training, and technology to make the Academy a success.

In the fight against malaria, WHO stands ready to support Francophone countries to support IOF's engagement for urgent action to realize our shared vision for a malaria-free world.

And the pandemic has only underlined why universal health coverage is so important.

Building resilient health systems with equitable access to services are crucial for preventing future pandemics, and for enabling individuals, families, communities and nations to thrive.

We seek the Francophonie's continued support for building strong health systems, relying on the foundation of primary health care, recognizing our health workers as our most vital resource.

I am also pleased that the MoU makes explicit reference to access to reproductive health services by educating girls and women.

This is especially important as we celebrate Beijing+25 this year.

I would also like to use this opportunity to call on the Francophone Ambassadors for your political support for vaccine equity.

I'm pleased that many of your countries, especially in Africa, have now received vaccines through COVAX, but I know it's not enough.

WHO and our partners are exploring every option for rapidly increasing the equitable production and distribution of vaccines, and we seek your support for COVAX as the best mechanism for achieving that.

My thanks again to the Ambassador of IOF in Geneva, the Ambassador of Canada, and the Group of Francophone Ambassadors in Geneva for awarding your 2020 Prize to WHO and the Swiss Association of Nurses.

And thank you so much once again, my sister Louise, for your leadership and partnership.

Now we must translate this MoU from a commitment on paper to a reality in the lives of the people we serve.

To quote the French poet and playwright Alfred de Musset, "Il vaut mieux faire que dire."

Merci beaucoup.

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