Croatian President Zoran Milanović participated in the opening of the 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva, where he expressed satisfaction that he was addressing the day when Croatia celebrates the 30th anniversary of its membership in the United Nations. In his speech, he therefore reminded of the importance of Croatia's cooperation with the WHO.
“Exactly 30 years ago, the Croatian flag was proudly raised in front of the UN headquarters on the East River and in other United Nations centers. Commitment to the World Health Organization in this context, for the young independent state in which the war raged, was of particular importance. This was our first appearance on the global stage, where we asked for help, but also offered lessons that we learned and good will to work together for the common good in the world,” said President Zoran Milanović.
In his speech, he emphasized a deep connection with the theme of this year's session 'Health for Peace, Peace for Health'.
“It brings back vivid memories of the shelling of hospitals, health facilities and ambulances that transported victims during the war in Croatia in the 90s, as well as the state of emergency caused by the large number of civilian victims. Even children's hospitals were not safe zones at the time. Furthermore, this situation indirectly exacerbated chronic diseases in the population. Several limited epidemics of infectious diseases were also recorded,” said the President.
In that sense, he pointed out that the Republic of Croatia deeply sympathizes with all people who are going through difficulties and suffering and who are facing war and its consequences.
“With great sadness and disbelief, I observe the attacks on hospitals and health care institutions, which are still a frightening, modern phenomenon,” said President Milanović.
He described as tragic the situation that Ukraine is not the only crisis situation the world is currently facing.
“I believe that it is clear that peace is a prerequisite for inclusive, equitable access to healthcare as part of other inclusive and equitable approaches to other social services,” said President Milanović, expressing satisfaction that the results of the debate aim to build a healthy and peaceful planet.
In his speech, President Milanović also referred to the session of the Assembly two years ago, when one topic dominated the agenda - the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that it damaged health around the world in direct and many indirect ways.
“The pandemic has severely disrupted healthcare systems, economies and societies around the world. Its consequences have affected progress towards the health goals of sustainable development and damaged the overall health of the world's population,” said the Croatian President, emphasizing that mental health is a cause of special concern and that young generations are severely affected.
“Serious challenges have been posed to national healthcare systems in terms of their resilience and preparedness. In Croatia, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, two devastating earthquakes further burdened the healthcare system,” said President Milanović, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted significant weaknesses in global health management. “We should build a stronger and more inclusive global health architecture to mitigate health and socioeconomic damage from ongoing challenges and prepare for the next major global health threat,” he said.
In this regard, he said that Croatia fully supports the leading and central role of the World Health Organization in this process and its role at the heart of the new global health architecture.
“Predictable and sustainable financing is essential for fulfilling the basic mandate of the World Health Organization with independence, technical expertise and long-term planning ability,” said the President and added that Croatia is actively committed to the "Pandemic Prevention and Pandemic Preparedness Agreement".
“I would like to add my voice to the calls to constantly focus on better preparedness. This week's report by a panel of the World Health Organization made a serious conclusion that governments around the world today are not better prepared to face the new global threat of disease than they were just before the outbreak of COVID-19 in late 2019,” said President Milanović.
President Milanović considers the rapid and successful development of the vaccine against COVID-19 to be a positive outcome of the pandemic, but, as he said, "access to vaccines, on the other hand, drew attention to the issue of equality and equal opportunities."
In conclusion, President Milanović recalled the legacy of the first President of the First World Health Assembly, the Croatian Dr. Andrija Štampar, who showed his broad understanding of public health.
“He argued that diseases are not only caused by physical and biological factors but also by economic and social conditions. Its principles include a vision of health in terms of overall well-being and society as a key and responsible health care provider Dr. Štampar called for action to ensure good health for all people in the broadest sense of the word. In this way, he said, the World Health Organization will become a powerful pioneer of world peace and understanding among nations", said President Milanović, concluding that the 75th session of the World Health Assembly is a historic opportunity to make a difference by making correct, responsible and determined decisions.
Ahead of the session of the 75th World Health Assembly, President Milanović held a bilateral meeting with the Director General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
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