By Sharon Atieno

With the COVID-19 pandemic putting immense pressure on global health systems especially in developing countries, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the World Health Organization (WHO) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) committing to strengthening their collaboration on public health issues affecting Commonwealth member states and governments.

Some of the priority issues include the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine equity, advancing universal health coverage, and building resilient health systems.

Signing the document at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva, the two parties represented by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, the Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, and the WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, agreed to work together and strengthen the exchange of information on seven priority areas.

These areas include promoting universal health coverage and primary healthcare, healthy environments and health of vulnerable groups. Also, strengthening global health security, transforming lifelong learning for health impact, building a data partnership and creating space for innovation and exchange of knowledge.

“Equitable access to vaccines is the world’s most pressing political, economic, social and moral priority. Without effective and prompt action on vaccines, we face a never-ending global health crisis that will reduce all of our wealth and security,” the Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC said at the signing ceremony.

“And the most effective way for the world to tackle this and other challenges that we face, whether COVID-19, climate change or universal health coverage, is by working through multilateral institutions such as the Commonwealth Secretariat and the World Health Organization.”

She added that the MoU demonstrates that both organisations share a vision for cooperation and action on these challenges, and a commitment to creating the conditions for people across the Commonwealth to flourish.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Partnership is essential in ensuring all people can achieve the highest level of health possible. The new agreement between the World Health Organization and the Commonwealth Secretariat reflects the importance of collaboration to promote and protect people’s wellbeing. WHO’s commitment to supporting all Commonwealth countries will be strengthened through our commitment to promoting universal health coverage, global health security and ensuring vulnerable groups receive all support needed to lead healthy lives.” 

The signing ceremony was virtually attended by Ambassadors from Commonwealth member states in Geneva and included interventions from ministers and Ambassadors representing Commonwealth regions, who all welcomed the partnership.

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