On World Health Day, marked each year on 7 April, the World Health Organization and its sister UN agencies call upon all leaders and international partners to put inclusiveness and equity at the heart of all COVID-19 response and recovery plans to create a fairer, healthier world for all.
The COVID-19 pandemic, the WHO’s Skopje Office said in a press release, has clearly demonstrated existing and subsequent disparities related to age, gender, education, employment, clean water and air, and access to health and social financial protection. These inequities constitute important barriers for healthier lives and better access to health services, harming our societies and economies.
“Why is it that some people have felt the effects of COVID-19 more sharply? Quite simply, the cards have been stacked against them in terms of jobs, housing, community, social support and health care. It’s time that everyone is dealt a fair hand, and we rebuild from the pandemic, setting our sights higher than surviving, to thriving,” said Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
COVID-19, the press release read, has hit all countries hard and affected people within a same country unequally. All too often, its impact has been harshest on vulnerable communities , leaving them more exposed to the disease, and less likely to have access to quality health care services. As a result, these communities are more likely to experience adverse consequences as a result of measures implemented to contain the pandemic.
According to Health Minister Venko Filipche, health equity for all is the basis for country development.
“The Ministry of Health and the whole of Government spare no efforts to relieve unnecessary suffering, avoidable illness, and premature death. We increased capacity of the health system for care and public health, in response to COVID-19 and maintained essential health services. Government took action immediately for protecting healthy life, like freezing the price of basic food products, medicines and other, protecting employment and economy,” he added.
Rossana Dudziak, UN Resident Coordinator in North Macedonia, also sent a message on World Health Day.
“Amidst one of the biggest health crisis in recent history, on this World Health Day it is imperative that we all show our sincere gratitude to the doctors, nurses, technicians, pharmacists, hospital administrators and many other health care workers — who work tirelessly to save lives. It is our duty to do our best to live healthier lives, to wear masks, practice good hygiene and to keep our distance to put a stop on the COVID-19 pandemic,” she noted.
According to UNICEF Representative Patrizia Di Giovanni, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many of the foundations that assure children’s access to health, education and child protection.
“We see a reduction of the services delivered to children on diagnostics, treatment of chronical illnesses and primary healthcare, due to parents fearing that children will contract COVID-19. Globally, movement restrictions, quarantines, switch to distance learning and reduced socialization negatively affected children’s mental health, which has been identified as the key health risk for children directly stemming from the pandemic. As governments around the world have mobilized billions of dollars to save their economies, there is an urgent need to invest in children to ensure the health crisis doesn’t become a child rights crisis,” Di Giovanni stressed.
Afrodita Shalja-Plavjanska, Head of Office at UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund office in North Macedonia, added that if before COVID-19 pandemic, over half of women and girls in the country experienced some kind of violence, now that number is even higher.
Vesna Ivanovikj-Castarede, Head of Office/Programme Specialist at UN Women office in North Macedonia, called on stakeholders to jointly work so that every woman and girl feels safe and gets the service she needs for her well- being.
“COVID-19 has deepened gender inequalities, placing an even greater burden on women health workers. They are key frontline workers against the virus and we all should acknowledge their contribution, show our support and gratitude,” she added.
According to WHO Representative Jihane Tawilah, the WHO is committed to ensuring that everyone, everywhere, can realize the right to good health.
“Successful national development policies are those targeting to close health gaps and positively impact health and well-being. Consorted multisectoral approaches need to be implemented together. At the same time, we urge leaders to monitor health inequities, and to ensure that all people are able to access quality health services when and where they need them,” Tawilah said.
WHO health equity policy tool has demonstrated the areas with highest potential to making a difference especially if they are implemented together: reducing the burden of out-of-pocket payments for health, making health care accessible and affordable for everyone; strengthening social protection to reduce income inequity and guarantee a basic degree of income security; increasing investment in quality and affordable housing and safe, vibrant neighbourhoods; proactively helping people to have decent and healthy work and reducing unemployment; strengthening education and life-long learning, as improving literacy and numeracy increases people’s ability to take control of their lives; and increasing civic participation, reducing crime and generating social connections.
The WHD campaign in North Macedonia will roll out from 7 April throughout 2021 using social media and virtual meetings with testimonials from large number of health equity supporters, the press release read.