The Friends of the Working Group met on 24 September 2020 on the sidelines of the high-level segment 75thsession of the United Nations General Assembly. Participants were Member States, UN agencies and non-state actors.
The meeting was hosted by the Government of the Russian Federation and the World Health Organization and sponsored by the United Nations Development Program, the International Development Organization and the Secretariat of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
The meeting provided an opportunity to consider the Working Group’s contribution to global efforts to increase the prevention and control of NCDs, with a special focus on NCDs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The WHO Director-General also announced fifteen winners UNIATF Awards for 2020.
The Secretariat of the Working Group provided a brief overview of the activities of the Working Group over the past year.
Mikhail Murashko, Minister of Health of the Russian Federation, stressed the importance of a systematic approach to combating NCDs and expressed gratitude for the work of the Working Group on promoting multisectoral cooperation in NCDs, including through the development of national cases of NCD investments under the WHO-UNDP joint program. The Russian Federation is now providing an additional $ 5 million over the next five years to continue this work. Minister Murashko welcomed the contributions of Italy, the European Commission and the Gulf Health Council to the work of the Working Group.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, stressed the importance of strengthening responses to NCDs during and outside COVID-19. He stressed the impact of the pandemic on NZD and mental health and that a strong impact on NZD must be an integral part of the response and recovery from COVID-19. The Director-General reminded participants that he had recently launched a joint publication of the WHO, UNDP and the Working Group, Response to NCDs during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Tedros described the WHO’s commitment to working with members of the Working Group on the establishment Multi-member native fund for NCD and mental health. Once established, Dr Tedros said he would call on partners to mobilize additional resources outside the WHO budget to increase support to countries in their response to NCDs.
“There is no doubt that COVID-19 is a stalemate in our efforts to defeat the NZD, but we cannot allow this to become an excuse for failing to meet our obligations. On the contrary, we must use it as a motivation to work more and more! “Dr. Tedros.
Axel Jacobsen, Secretary of State for International Development of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, described Norway’s NCD development policy (2020-2024), which will support low-income countries in their efforts to address NCDs. He emphasized the heavy burden of the comorbidities of NCDs and COVID-19. The Secretary of State called on countries to ensure that the prevention, detection and treatment of NCDs are included in their COVID-19 response plans, stressing the importance of political commitment to achieving equality and equity in access to health care.
“Long-term global investment in NCD prevention and control is part of the reason for this tragic development.” Reverend Jakobsen.
Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health of Nigeria, thanked the Working Group for its mission in Nigeria earlier this year, noting that the President had approved the mission’s recommendations and that an implementation unit had been set up to implement the recommendations.
Dr Jennifer Harries, UK Deputy Chief Medical Officer, spoke about the UK’s experience in tackling major NCD risk factors as well as obesity, and the UK’s efforts to support people to stay mentally well during a pandemic. Dr Harries emphasized the importance of multilateral approaches to addressing NHS, highlighting the national investment cases of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) supported by the UK.
“The UK would support further joint programming on multilateral sides through the Multipartner Trust Fund to catalyze action on NCDs in low- and middle-income countries at such a critical time.” Dr. Harries.
Mr. Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, described the IAEA’s long-standing cooperation with the WHO, particularly with regard to the Human Health Program in addressing NCD-related challenges through a range of medical problems. Mr. Grossi highlighted the IAEA’s work on capacity building to detect NCDs and COVID-19, which included providing resources to thousands of health professionals on the use of radiology for diagnosis and treatment.
“Medical imaging has had a significant impact on our understanding of the signs and symptoms associated with COVID-19.” Mr. Grossi.
Emanuela Del Re, Deputy Foreign Minister of Italy, shared Italy’s experience in working with NCDs through the promotion of healthy eating and food quality assurance.
“A healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet not only prevent NZD, but also have a positive impact on people’s general health, especially on children in the first years of life.” Hon Del Re.
Ahmed Mohammed Obaid Al Saidi, Minister of Health of the Sultanate of Oman, highlighted the increased use of innovative digital technology solutions for the care of NCDs resulting from the restrictions imposed by COVID-19.
“In Oman, service routes for those seeking NCD care have been redesigned to ensure patient safety and the safe provision of services and medicines. This has undoubtedly called for innovation and the introduction of new technology-based measures. “Hon Al Saidi.
Ms. Jan Beagle, Director-General of the International Development Development Organization, stressed the importance of the rule of law and the functioning of legal and regulatory frameworks for the appropriate and impartial care of NCDs and COVID-19 for all.
“Now, more than ever, COVID-19 has exposed and is exacerbated by ingrained injustices and equations under which too many people still live and from which no nation can claim to be exempt.” Mrs. Beagle.
Ms. Katie Dain, CEO of the Alliance for NCDs, welcomed the recent attention of the Working Group to the treatment and management of NCDs, as well as the development of the Multipartner Trust Fund.
“COVID-19 must be a wake-up call for governments and political leaders to evaluate, prioritize and invest in health, NCDs and prevention. We simply will not be ready for the next pandemic or any other health threat if we don’t really tackle the burden of NZD. “Mrs. Dain.
Dr. Adriana Blanco Marquizo, Head of the FCTC Secretariat, spoke about the threat posed by the tobacco industry in the context of COVID-19 and NCDs, and the important role the FCTC WHO has in directing national and international efforts to reduce global tobacco distribution. Dr. Blanco stressed the urgent need to provide support to tobacco users who want to quit, pointing to the sensitization of the population about the importance of health that has occurred due to COVID-19.
Ms. Lena Nanushyan from the Ministry of Health in Armenia highlighted Armenia’s experience in working with the Working Group on the Development and Implementation of the National NCD Investment Case. Ms. Nanushyan stressed that the results of the investment case were used to push for the adoption of a stricter tobacco control law earlier this year.
Dr. Douglas Webb, Cluster Leader, United Nations Health and Development Group in the United Nations Development Program,spoke about the possibility of addressing NCDs through national response and recovery plans from COVID-19, which increasingly reveal synergies with NCD-related actions within and outside the health sector. Dr. Webb approved the Multipartner Foundation Fund, noting a significant funding gap in response to the NCD.
“A multi-partner foundation fund is a crucial technical tool that allows Member States to make progress in strengthening their responses to NCDs.” Dr. Webb.
Mr. Yahya Alfasi, from the Gulf Health Council, informed the participants about the ongoing work on the development of NCD investment cases for six countries in the region through the joint WHO-UNDP program within the Working Group.
Mr William Twomey of Johnson and Johnson praised the Accession Tobacco Initiative (AIQT) to improve global access to tobacco smoking cessation support, stating that it is an important step in tackling the very high economic and social costs that tobacco imposes on our society.
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