4 September 2017
World Health Organisation director general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said the conflict that has wrecked havoc in Yemen is haunting him noting that it is the suffering of women and children that gives him sleepless nights.
Speaking in Victoria Falls at the 67th Regional committee for Africa meeting, Dr Tedros called on health ministers and delegates to visualise the suffering of women and children and see how they can make the world a better place.
“Let me start by describing what for me was the most compelling moment since I began as director-general less than 60 days ago.
“I visited Yemen where I met a mother and held malnourished child. They has walked for hours to reach the health centre. But when I looked at the mother I could see she was skin and bone. She could well die before her child but she was only focused on her child, not herself, ” Dr Tadros recounted.
He chronicled how this moment of human suffering was a moment of truth for him.
“That moment defines what WHO does and why WHO exists. We must not rest until that child and that mother are saved, until there are no mothers and children in that circumstances.
“Let us all work together to that noble end.”
Yemen has been devastated by war and since 2015, more than 7 600 people have been killed while 42 000 have been injured.
Dr Tedros who was appointed as director-general in June has already outlined several fast track initiatives to steer the global health body.
“There is need to boost effectiveness in emergency through daily briefings, enhancing our governance by working with the officers of the executive board to examine the work of the executive board and the World Health Assembly.
“Making WHO an even better place to work, strengthening WHO s image through better communications. Rethinking resource mobilisation by learning from others, pursuing greater value for money in our travel expenditure and examining climate change in the small-island national and planning for the polio transition.”
He underscored that Sustainable development goals were the lens which the world must all see work.
“They are the priorities that you, the Member states have agreed on and must be prioritised.
“The world expects WHO to be able to prevent, detect and respond to epidemics. I do not need to convince you that Ebola taught us a very painful lesson that we must never forget. And indeed we are learning.
“When Ebola struck the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this year, early and decisive action ensured that the outbreak was quickly contained.”
Reverting back to the image of the Yemen mother and child, Dr Tedros said: “Let me return to the image of that mother and child I met in Yemen. That’s why I’m here. I want you also to visualise the human suffering you have witnessed.
“Picture this in terms of the individuals you have met and how you have helped them.
“Let this image be your guide and let our collective images guide WHO.”