Cairo, 9 October 2023 (TDI): Ministers of Health from all countries and territories within the Eastern Mediterranean Region gather for the seventieth session of the Regional Committee in Cairo.

It is pertinent to note that the Region is grappling with an unprecedented wave of crises that pose grave threats to public health.

The Caretaker Federal Health Minister of Pakistan, Dr. Nadeem Jan represented the country at the Opening Ceremony of the 70th Session of the WHO’s Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean.

Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, underscored the severity of the situation, stating that the Region was contending with an immense emergency.

He underscored relentless challenges to the region’s ability to safeguard the lives and well-being of millions of vulnerable individuals.

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This emergency also put to the test the Region’s response capabilities and jeopardized the modest gains made in fortifying public health and shoring up fragile healthcare systems.

This burden is compounded by some of the world’s most enduring and intricate humanitarian crises, leaving over 127 million people in dire need of immediate humanitarian aid.

In the past 15 months alone, the Eastern Mediterranean Region witnessed unprecedented floods in Pakistan and Libya, and catastrophic earthquakes in the Syrian Arab Republic, Morocco, and Afghanistan.

Likewise, the perilous escalation of conflicts in Sudan, the occupied Palestinian territory, and northern Syria add to the mix. Additionally, the Region experienced a surge in disease outbreaks, with 64 recorded in 2023, compared to just 31 in 2021.

In nations grappling with conflict and insecurity, damaged healthcare systems and restricted access to those in need hinder humanitarian health response efforts, putting thousands of lives in jeopardy.

These challenges include attacks on healthcare facilities, the inaccessibility or disruption of health centers, breakdowns in referral systems, shortages of essential medicines and medical supplies, and interruptions in disease prevention and control measures.

Dr. Al-Mandhari emphasized that it is imperative for all concerned parties to immediately adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law without hesitation or compromise.

Ensuring health as a fundamental human right and cooperating within the regional vision of “health for all, for all” are shared responsibilities aimed at alleviating the suffering and preserving the dignity of the most vulnerable populations.

The organization issued a call for an immediate cessation of hostilities throughout the region, recognizing that it is civilians caught in the crossfire who bear the brunt of violence and are unable to access life-saving care.

In the face of these escalating crises, it is essential to prioritize humanitarian principles and eliminate any obstacles to meeting urgent health needs, driven by a commitment to ethical principles.