STATEMENT BY MERE FALEMAKA, PERMANENT OBSERVER/AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS IN GENEVA
SIGNING CEREMONY FOR THE MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING
BETWEEN WHO AND THE COMMONWEALTH SECRETARIAT
WHO Headquarters, B building
7 February 2022, 10:30 – 11:30 CET
Thank you very much, the right Honorable Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation
Excellencies and Colleagues.
1. First let me thank both the Commonwealth Secretariat and the World Health Organisation for the opportunity to make a brief intervention at this important occasion. on behalf of the Pacific Forum Island Countries, may I warmly congratulate the Commonwealth Secretariat and the World Health Organisation on the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) today. This MOU marks an important milestone in enhancing co-operation. It is also timely given the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic and its devastating impact on human lives, livelihoods, and economies around the world.
3. Many Forum Island countries were initially relatively sheltered from the early spread of COVID 19 but have since faced devastating socio-economic impacts. This new wave of infections including amongst nations who had kept their people safe for the last three years, adds the COVID19 crisis to the climate crisis and further exacerbates the underlying health issues caused by Non-Communicable Diseases facing our Blue Pacific region. The Pacific Islands Forum have worked collectively to assist one another in combatting the pandemic including the establishing of a Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID19 and have worked to develop a regional vaccination certificate. The Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have also been strong advocates globally for the equitable distribution of safe and effective COVID19 vaccines for all Pacific people and for everyone around the world.
4. We commend the good work of the Commonwealth Secretariat on issues particularly of interest to small island developing states. These include trade, vulnerability, oceans, and climate change. This MOU has the potential to broaden this work to include health issues facing small islands States. Beyond the Pandemic, the Pacific Forum Island Countries have longstanding health challenges, particularly one of the world’s highest rates of NCDs on a per capita basis. This stems from various factors, including our increasing dependance on food imports to meet national food needs, as well as loss of investment and capacity in our health infrastructure to support essential health services as well as advocacy and education in this area. This is not due to a lack of will on behalf of Pacific Forum Islands Countries but has risen out of the numerous climate induced disasters that have wreaked havoc in the Pacific region, and which we now face on a regular basis. The onerous cost of rebuilding from disasters combined with the economic losses from COVID19, has placed undue pressure on the physical capacity of PI countries, with high levels of public debt, very limited resources for our public health sector. It is therefore critical that the challenges faced by the Pacific region and other SIDS are prioritized and addressed with urgency.
5. We therefore welcome the recent decision of the WHO Executive Board two weeks ago, to proceed with the resolution on the “Outcome of the SIDS Summit for Health” for adoption at the World Health Assembly in May. The resolution and decision is critical to enhance the ability of SIDS to address their varying health needs in relation to technical assistance, financial support and capacity building.
6. In closing, we look forward to supporting the Commonwealth Secretariat and WHO, in pursuit of the objectives of the MOU and to the benefit of all Members including the Pacific Islands. Thank you.–ENDS