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PAHO Director calls for end to ‘health inequity’ at COVID-19 summit

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Posted: Thursday, September 23, 2021. 9:21 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr Carissa Etienne addressed U.S. President Joe Biden’s Global COVID-19 Summit, making the case that “Health inequity continues to fuel COVID-19 pandemic and prolongs the efforts to end it.”

Recalling the original purpose of PAHO to fight an outbreak of yellow fever, Dr Etienne said the scale and impact of COVID-19 has sharply presented the inequities between countries of the Americas.

“People living in poverty without necessary infrastructure could not follow the basic public health measures to avoid infection. The many millions who rely on the informal economy lacked the option to stay home. And for people living on the move, in remote areas or in vulnerable conditions – like many of our indigenous communities, Afro-descendant populations and migrants – proper health care was often out of reach,” she stated, citing the example of Haiti, where an already weak health system is struggling to care for COVID-19 patients.

To date PAHO has collaborated in distributing nearly 33 million COVID tests and over $14M worth of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to countries and territories in the Americas, and underlining the value and importance of leveraging our collective resources and working together to save lives. This is true for essential supplies and it’s especially true for vaccines.

“But to truly address the health inequity that continues to fuel this pandemic and prolongs our efforts to end it, we must work together to invest in our health systems, so they are resilient and provide quality care for all. Because there is no path to recovery for any of us while our neighbors remain vulnerable. The investments we make today, will help us get through this pandemic faster, lay the groundwork to prevent future crises, and fulfill our promise of health for all, Dr Etienne said, adding, “The road to recovery will be paved by the decisions of everyone at this Summit. Let’s work together to make that road a short one.”

 

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