Regional health ministers to discuss lessons learnt from COVID-19
Jamaica’s Minister of Health, Dr Christopher Tufton

LONDON, United Kingdom (CMC) — Caricom health ministers will join their counterparts from the Commonwealth to discuss the lessons learned from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and recovery efforts

The ministers will meet virtually from Tuesday for their three-day annual Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting (CHMM) that will be held under the theme “The Road to COVID-19 Recovery: Lessons Learnt for Building Health System Resilience to advance Universal Health Coverage and Global Health Security in the Commonwealth”.

The meeting will be chaired by Jamaica’s Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton and will include a keynote address from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom.

The London-based Commonwealth Secretariat said the meeting will also provide a forum for health leaders to assess the current health situation in the Commonwealth and discuss key resolutions and areas of action on public health issues as the world recovers from the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of more than one million of our brothers and sisters across the Commonwealth. COVID-19 vaccine equity remains a critical issue in the Commonwealth, and across the world — with more than 40 per cent of the 2.5 billion people across our family of 54 nations yet to receive a single dose,” said Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.

She said that the pandemic has also exposed the inherent weaknesses and inequities in the health systems, with even the most advanced health systems dealing with major disruptions to essential services and strains on the workforce.

“This has been magnified for the Commonwealth’s small and least-developed states. As Commonwealth health ministers convene, we all share a clear need to ensure our health systems are well-prepared, well-resourced, and flexible enough to withstand the shocks caused by health-related emergencies – and to provide the foundation for sustainable development.

“We can achieve these goals by working together and I am confident that we can emerge from this week’s Commonwealth health ministers meeting, and look towards the World Health Assembly and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, with renewed unity and purpose,” she added.

The secretariat said that in keeping with the spirit of cooperation among member states, participants will have the opportunity to share knowledge and good practices in building resilient health systems, reflect on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to inform ongoing recovery and explore innovative approaches that can be adopted by member countries on challenges such as vaccine inequity and strategies to bolster health systems.

“This ministerial meeting will also build on existing commitments from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2018 and the CHMM meeting in May 2021, including advancing Universal Health Coverage goals towards global health security, addressing non-communicable diseases, cervical cancer, malaria and neglected tropical diseases, as well as COVID-19 recovery and resilience,” the statement added.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a ministerial statement that outlines policy proposals for adoption and implementation will be issued and serve as a collective commitment for Commonwealth countries.

A set of key policy recommendations will also be put forward for discussion at the upcoming CHOGM in Kigali, Rwanda, in June, the statement noted.

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