WHO urges countries to invest in health financing

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 25 2021 09:00 PM

An elderly resident receives his cash aid in Barangay Santa Cruz along Roosevelt Avenue in Quezon City on April 8, 2021. Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News/File
An elderly resident receives his cash aid in Barangay Santa Cruz along Roosevelt Avenue in Quezon City on April 8, 2021. Jire Carreon, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday urged member nations to invest in financing mechanisms for health and emergencies, saying the COVID-19 pandemic is "far from over."

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in "cycles of panic and neglect" that have "created a financing ecosystem that's in sufficient, inefficient and inequitable," said WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"We need a substantial increase in domestic investment, including in primary healthcare and in international financing to support middle-income and low-income countries," he said in a taped message played during the WHO-Western Pacific region's hybrid 72nd session.

"We believe an international agreement on pandemic preparedness and response will provide a much needed overarching framework for global cooperation, setting the rules of the game and enhancing solidarity among nations," he said.

Ghebreyesus urged member nations to "support and invest in strengthening" the WHO "rather than creating new structures that may only led to more fragmentation."

"We need better global governance that is inclusive, equitable and accountable," he said.

"Voluntary mechanisms have not led to the coordinated and coherent approach we need in the face of a global threat," he said.

"Crucially, we believe any financing facility must be built using existing financial institutions rather than creating new ones that further fragments the global health architecture."

Among the current projects of the WHO that need to be financed are the establishment of a "new hub for pandemic intelligence" in Berlin, Germany, and a "bio hub for storing and sharing pathogens and the universal preparedness peer review," the WHO director general said.

"We have the tools we need... [but] complacency is now as dangerous as the virus," he said.

"The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it. It is in our hands."

The WHO earlier said that it is "plausible" that the COVID-19 virus would become endemic in the succeeding years.

"We acknowledge the necessity of financing, preparedness at the national, regional and global levels," said Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who is also the outgoing chair of the WHO-Western Pacific region.

"We must design policies that will accelerate the implementation of the universal health care system and will expand strategic engagement with the public sector," he said.

As of August 31, 2021, the Philippines has incurred a P11.64-trillion debt, according to data from the Bureau of Treasury.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez earlier said the government is expected to borrow P3 trillion this year and P2.25 trillion in 2022 as the Philippines continues to expand its pandemic war chest. 

Economic managers earlier noted that the country's debt-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio remains sustainable despite the uptick in borrowing. 

The national government's debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to slightly increase to 60 percent next year from the programmed 59 percent ratio in 2021, the finance chief said. 

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