Public Health

Access to healthcare, polio and road traffic safety among key issues highlighted at 60th WHO EMR annual meeting


The Sixtieth Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean was held in the Omani capital Muscat from 27-30 October 2013. The session looked at a number a public health issues and passed several resolutions pertinent to the region, including universal health coverage, polio and road traffic safety.

In his opening speech, Dr Ala Alwan, WHO Regional Director of the World Health Organization for the Eastern Mediterranean, praised the advances that Oman has made in health and social developments Oman over the past four decades, through its sustained commitment to health and social development and careful planning.

“The excellent collaboration between WHO and Oman is a model that we aim for with all Member States, and I extend my particular appreciation to Oman for this admirable achievement,” said Dr Alwan. The Regional Director highlighted a number of issues, such as strengthening health systems, universal health coverage, maternal and child health, international health regulations, polio, non-communicable diseases and the challenges faced by the Region regarding health and the environment.

In her opening remarks HRH Princess Muna Al-Hussein, the WHO Patron of nursing and midwifery in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, stressed the importance of strengthening public health by prioritising the promotion of public health. Dr Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Saidi, Minister of Health of Oman, concluded the opening ceremony saying the emergence of several health issues as priorities makes it obligatory for all of us to do more for the health of our communities.

There was an urgent need for more commitment especially with the profound political, social and economic changes in a number of countries in the region. Dr Saidi said: “The past two years has revealed the huge differences in the response of health systems, and the need to take urgent measures to bridge the gaps. “Strengthening health systems and making them more efficient is a fundamental strategy to promote comprehensive development [in public health].”

A number of resolutions were passed at the meeting. Importantly, one of the resolutions addresses the escalation of polio in the region, declared the circulation of the polio virus in the region as an emergency for all Member States. It called on Pakistan to take necessary steps to ensure all children are assessed and vaccinated as a matter of utmost emergency to prevent further international spread and requested the Syrian Arab Republic and adjoining countries to coordinate, and if possible, to synchronize, intensified mass vaccination campaigns using the most appropriate tactics and vaccines to stop this new outbreak within six months.

Another resolution addresses universal health coverage. In this context the Regional Committee called on Member States to ensure sustained political commitment to universal health coverage in order to ensure that all people have access to essential health services that are of sufficient quality without the risk of financial hardship.

The Regional Committee also endorsed the Dubai Declaration: Saving the lives of mothers and children: rising to the challenge. Committee Members urged high-burden countries to strengthen multisectoral partnership in order to implement their national acceleration plans and allocate the necessary human and financial resources and mobilize additional resources as necessary.

The Regional Committee also endorsed the regional strategy for the improvement of civil registration and vital statistics system 2014–2019.; urging Member States to give priority to the strengthening of their national systems and develop multisectoral strategies to improve civil registration and vital statistics systems based on the findings of an in-depth assessment and guided by the regional strategy.

Another strategy endorsed by the Regional Committee was the Regional strategy on health and environment 2014-2019 and its framework for action. It requested the Regional Director to provide technical support to Member States to adapt and implement the regional strategy and to build partnerships with United Nations agencies and other relevant stakeholders Adopting the Annual Report of the Regional Director for 2012, the Regional Committee urged middle income countries to participate in the pooled vaccine procurement system and to sign a memorandum of understanding with WHO and UNICEF to complete the participation process before the end of 2013.

The Regional Committee requested the Regional Director to support Member States in developing and implementing strategies and self-delivery approaches for rapid scale-up of HIV treatment to improve the quality of the planning cycle by building capacity at the three levels of the Organization and improving monitoring mechanisms. WHO EMRO RC 60


WHO EMRO releases global status report on road safety 2013
Eastern Mediterranean Region accounts for 10% of the world’s road traffic deaths

The Global status report on road safety 2013: supporting a Decade of Action was released at the 60th WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Committee. The report provides an update of the road safety situation in countries across the world.

More importantly it sets the baseline for monitoring action through the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020. The report presents information from 182 countries – including 19 countries from the Eastern Mediterranean Region – accounting for almost 99% of the world’s population or 6.8 billion people.

Among other important information, the report shows that only 28 countries, covering 7% of the world’s population, have comprehensive road safety laws on five key risk factors: drinking and driving, speeding, failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts and child restraints. It indicates that, among other measures, the pace of legislative change needs to rapidly accelerate if the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020 is to meet its target of saving 5 million lives.

The report also documents that between 2007 and 2010, 88 countries managed to reduce the number of deaths on their roads, showing that improvements are possible. However, the number of deaths increased in 87 countries during the same period. Worldwide the total number of road traffic deaths remains unacceptably high at 1.24 million per year.

Eastern Mediterranean Region

Data from the Eastern Mediterranean Region show that it accounts for 10% of the world’s road traffic deaths and has the second highest road traffic fatality rate among WHO regions after the African Region.

Middle-income countries of the Region account for over 85% of its road traffic deaths. On the other hand high-income countries in the Region have road traffic death rates that are double the rates in high-income countries in other regions of the world.

This clearly shows that road traffic injuries pose a grave problem for all countries in the Region regardless of their income level. More alarming is that the younger productive age groups are hardest hit. About 60% of those who are killed in road traffic crashes are between the ages of 15 and 44 years, and over 75% are male.

This is in line with the most updated Global Burden of Disease Data 2010, which shows that road traffic crashes are the leading cause of death among those aged 15-29 years in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. Of all road traffic victims in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, about 45% are vulnerable road users. The highest toll is among pedestrians followed by motorcyclists and bicyclists.

Yet only a few countries have national policies and enabling environments to encourage walking and cycling or to separate vulnerable road users. Laws on key risk factors are available in the majority of the Region’s countries, but are mostly not comprehensive. This, together with inadequate enforcement, limits their effectiveness. And although most countries have post-crash care systems, these need strengthening both in terms of trauma care and rehabilitation.

The 2013 Global status report is the second in a series analysing the extent to which countries are implementing a number of effective road safety measures. In addition to the five risk factors noted above, it highlights the importance of issues such as vehicle safety standards, road infrastructure inspections, policies on walking and cycling and aspects of pre-hospital care systems.

It also indicates whether countries have a national strategy which sets measurable targets to reduce the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads. Global status report on road safety 2013

 Date of upload: 17th Jan 2014


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