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PAHO Director calls for strengthened regional health systems in wake of COVID-19 pandemic during opening of Directing Council

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Posted: Tuesday, September 21, 2021. 1:29 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) Directing Council is meeting virtually this week amid calls for general strengthening of regional health systems as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Director Dr. Carissa Etienne, the Region has been left vulnerable by being unable to procure in a timely manner key supplies and vaccines against COVID-19.

She added that PAHO recently launched a platform to boost regional vaccine production and that the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank, and other partners have expressed interest in collaboration.

Dr. Etienne was presenting PAHO’s annual report covering its work from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

Dr. Etienne also called attention to the “enormity” of the pandemic’s human toll, noting that as of last Friday, there were 87.6 million COVID-19 cases and 2.16 million deaths.

“It is noteworthy that after every disaster, be it a natural disaster, a major disease outbreak like Ebola or a financial crisis, we all reaffirm our commitment to building resilient health systems,” she said. “Sadly, if nothing else, this pandemic has demonstrated that our continuing failure to deliver on this commitment does indeed carry a high price tag in terms of the millions of lives lost and economies that are destroyed.”

“I urge us all, to invest in our health systems and swiftly ensure their transformation so they have the capacity to respond to the needs of all people, every day and to better respond to pandemics and other disasters when they do occur,” Dr. Etienne concluded.

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