World Health Organization

73rd Session of the World Health Assembly

(9-14 November 2020)

Committee A – Item 13.2 WHO’s work on Health Emergencies

Geneva, 10th November 2020



Director General,

I have the honour to address the 73rd World Health Assembly on behalf of Portugal. We align with the statement by the European Union.

Let me begin by thanking WHO for its work on Health Emergencies and its leadership on global health. We note the report of the DG, and the coordination, training and support provided to Member States.

The world needs a stronger WHO. The magnitude and impact of the pandemic makes this one of the most challenging periods in the Organization's history, and the complexity and scope of WHO's mandate requires a corresponding provision of resources.

Portugal reiterates its support to multilateralism as the only approach capable of responding to global crises, mitigate their effects, and prevent similar outbreaks in the future.

We look forward to the lessons learned exercise on the global response to the pandemic, as we rely on this to steer the reform of the organization, grounded on a broad commitment between Member States.

Public Health Emergencies have a disproportionate high impact on persons in vulnerable situations, such as older persons or persons with mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities.

Likewise, the higher incidence of poverty and deficient housing has meant that the COVID crisis has had a higher health and socio-economic toll on migrant and refugee populations, especially children. Prioritising children and people facing deprivation with effective, comprehensive and equitable interventions is essential to ensure social justice and resilient communities.

Portugal has designed policies and enacted legislation making migrants’ and refugees’ health a priority, with an inclusive, non-discriminatory, humanistic approach. However, like in every country, work plans and programmes are constrained by new demands from the pandemic. Resilience and flexibility are therefore key.

We ask the secretariat to prioritise investments in rebuilding essential health services and stimulate national development plans to strengthen public health essential operations, in order to respond effectively to present and future health emergencies.

In order to strengthen global health security, we must work on preparedness, build the capacity to prevent outbreaks, to early detect and respond as quickly as possible. We must invest in epidemiological surveillance, laboratory capacity and contact tracing, as well as scale up a trained health workforce.

Lastly, we call for the implementation of resilient, inclusive and effective health policies supported by the aspiration – “no one is left behind”. This principle has guided our country’s National Health Service in the last forty-one years. It is today, in the challenging context of the COVID-19, even more fundamental.

Thank you

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