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Coronavirus requires universal health coverage: Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the global Covid-19 pandemic crisis has starkly highlighted the value of universal health coverage in responding to health emergencies, and the need for robust health systems to save lives.

Speaking at the virtual launch of the United Nations Secretary General’s Independent Accountability Panel 2020 Report on Monday, President Ramaphosa reiterated that the pandemic is placing an additional burden on already constrained health care systems.

He said South Africa fully supports the efforts of the World Health Organisation (WHO), to ensure there is universal health coverage across the world.

“The reality that we must now confront is that the response to the Covid-19 crisis has required countries to reprioritise the allocation of their resources by diverting crucial technical and financial resources from other critical areas,” President Ramaphosa said.

Themed, “From Page to Action: Accountability for the Furthest Left Behind during Covid-19 and Beyond”, the report brings attention to data and accountability for the rights of women, children and adolescents health, through the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

The President noted that the health of women has been adversely impacted through the reallocation of resources, particularly in sexual and reproductive health services.

“There is a real danger that this will contribute to a rise in maternal and new-born mortality, increased unmet need for contraception and an increased number of unsafe abortions, and sexually transmitted infections,” President Ramaphosa warned.

Reproductive health services crucial for thriving society

President Ramaphosa added that South Africa believes sexual and reproductive health services are crucial for a thriving society, including access to maternal health care and interventions related to gender-based violence.

“As countries of the world, we must ensure this pandemic does not worsen existing inequalities in society or impede the realisation of the rights of women and girls. We must ensure that our response enables young people in particular to shape the world that will emerge from this crisis.

“It is significant that 65 out of the 169 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets refer to young people explicitly or implicitly, with a focus on their empowerment, participation and well-being.

“It is our desire that developing countries should have equitable access to safe and effective medicines and new health technologies,” the President said.

Collaboration on knowledge development

The President also called on the global community to undertake the actions that are urgently needed to ensure collaboration on the development of knowledge, intellectual property and data for existing and new therapeutics, vaccines and diagnostics for COVID-19.

He further commended governments around the world for their collaborative efforts towards advancing SDG 3, on ensuring health and well-being for all.

This includes a bold commitment to end HIV and AIDS, Tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases by 2030.

“Fighting this global pandemic requires us all to work together in collaboration with the United Nations as a united force. Indeed we are stronger together,” President Ramaphosa said.