His Excellency Dr Mokgweetsi E.K. Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana, shared Botswana’s health trajectory at the 75th World Health Assembly (held in Geneva from 22 to 28 May 2022), notably in the middle of the nation’s efforts to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has made significant health and socioeconomic impact, disproportionately affecting countries with the fewest resources to react and preserve lives and livelihood.  Furthermore, a number of issues, such as rising poverty, humanitarian crises, climate change, and rising geopolitical instability necessitate global solidarity and collective action. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed stark inequities both within and between communities, with middle and low-income countries bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s impact.

“Unfortunately, global solidarity was lacking, particularly in the early stages of the  Covid-19 pandemic.” This was apparent in the choice of medical products like personal protective equipment and vaccines, and also the allocation of resources to fight the pandemic. Unnecessary deaths occurred as a result, and critical health services were disrupted. This will unquestionably have an effect on the recovery, stalling and, in certain cases, regress progress toward the sustainable development goals,” said HE President Masisi.

Universal health coverage entails providing equal access to affordable, high-quality healthcare services that are not financially burdensome, with a focus on the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized segments of society. This comprehensive approach to responding to health issues in the public policy demonstrates the willingness and determination of policymakers to protect economic systems while also attempting to protect their constituents’ livelihoods and lives.

Following the peak of the pandemic, Botswana recognizes shifting global trends that necessitate the country’s health systems to be strengthened in order to provide complete health coverage and thus meet the sustainable development goals

The president reaffirmed Botswana’s loyalty to the African region by signing the Abuja Declaration, which requires governments to devote at least 15percent of their national budgets to health. In the 2019 Charter of the High-level Conference on Universal Health Coverage, Member Countries pledged to ‘enhance emergency health preparedness and response systems, as well as strengthen capacities at regional, national, and international levels, including to minimize the effect of climate – related disasters on health.’

Botswana has reaffirmed its support for the “Health in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” recognizing the interdependence of health and development. Among them are the 11th National Development Plan (April 2017-March 2023), the drafted 12th National Development Plan, and the National Vision 2036.

Hon Dr Edwin Dikoloti, Minister of Health, attended the event and stressed the importance of “capitalizing the WHO country headquarters and empowering them to assist the nations with technical and normative guidance” in a statement. He also emphasized “empowering people to enjoy the optimal health condition, with resilient and supportive health systems as a critical investment to ensure health security.”

Despite considerable advances in areas such as malaria, HIV transmission from mother to baby, and noncommunicable diseases, as well as significant achievements in COVID-19 vaccination, Botswana, as an upper-middle-income nation, face health-related challenges. “These include, among other things, restricted access to adequate medicinal products, development and research challenges, issues with the supply of prescription meds, and an inability to retain skilled and quality health personnel,” His Excellency explained.

“Now is the moment to adequately fund the WHO in order for it to continue to serve as the leading authority in global health governance and to demonstrate our collective action and commitment.” He added ”  Botswana welcomes and supports the proposal to increase assessed contributions to 50% of the budget by 2028-2029, in line with the African Region’s position. Furthermore, I would like to encourage developed countries and donors to reduce earmarking of voluntary contributions, which would allow the organization to address its broad priorities while also providing adequate leadership and technical assistance to countries.”

“It is extremely encouraging to see how Africa’s leadership’s determination has translated into action across sectors,” was the opening remarks to the WHO African Region Minsters’ Coordination Meeting on May 21.

Botswana took part in the nomination of Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus’s second term as WHO Director-General in January this year at the 150th Board meeting, as a member of the WHO Executive Board. “Dr Tedros has demonstrated excellent leadership at the helm of the organization, particularly at a time when the world is experiencing one of the most difficult and unprecedented health and socioeconomic crises in modern history,” President Masisi said ”  My government believes that Dr. Tedros’ reappointment will enable him to continue leading the Organization and complete the mandate of the 13th General Program (GPW13), which has been extended until 2025, including the Triple Billion targets set for WHO to assist us in meeting SDG 3 by 2025.”

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