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Russia tells WHO to avoid geopolitics to effectively fight pandemics

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A file image of Russian Foreign Sergei Lavrov with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Courtesy: MFA, Russia)

In a veiled warning, Russia has told the World Health Organization (WHO) to avoid politicized decisions ahead of and during the 75th session of the World Health Assembly which will be held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva from May 22 to 28.  

Russian Foreign Sergei Lavrov dialled WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday confirming Moscow's support for the central role of the WHO and its readiness to continue to actively participate in the activities of the organisation.

During the telephonic conversation, Lavrov insisted that his country is ready to make an important contribution to solving global health problems, including in the context of the ongoing fine-tuning of the international health emergency preparedness and response system.

However, he also made it clear to Ghebreyesus the need to "avoid politicized decisions that could pose a threat to international cooperation in the field of health care and be fraught with serious disruptions in the effective interaction of member countries with WHO".

Particular attention was paid to conflict situations that adversely affect the health needs of civilians, especially in Africa and the Middle East.

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WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Russian Foreign Sergei Lavrov at the G20 Summit in Rome last October (Image courtesy: Twitter/@DrTedros)

"The state of affairs in the healthcare sector in Ukraine and Donbass was also touched upon. On the Russian side, specific facts are given about the causes of the humanitarian crisis that arose as a result of the anti-constitutional coup of 2014 and the subsequent aggression of the Kyiv regime against the population of Donbass and the total blockade of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics," said the Russian Foreign Ministry in a statement after the Lavrov-Ghebreyesus discussion.

Russia said that Lavrov outlined in detail the actions taken on a daily basis as part of a special military operation to alleviate the suffering of civilians, and "called on WHO to influence the Kyiv regime so that it does not interfere with the implementation of the measures proposed for this purpose".

WHO agreed that its annual session of the World Health Assembly happens at a time when the world is threatened by conflict, inequities, the climate crisis and pandemics.

This 75th session will focus on the theme of 'Health for Peace, Peace for Health' and will also include the appointment of the next WHO Director-General.

It will kick off on May 22 with speeches from the elected Health Assembly President, Heads of State, special guests, an address by the WHO Director-General and the presentation of the Director-General’s Health Awards. WHO said that the Director-General's speech will set out the organisation's five priorities going forward, expanding from the vision delivered at the Executive Board meeting held in January 2022.

Ahead of the Health Assembly, WHO will publish the latest set of World Health Statistics, its annual compilation of health statistics for WHO's 194 Member States on Friday.

"The pandemic has undermined progress towards the health-related targets in Sustainable Development Goals and laid bare inequities within and between countries," said Ghebreyesus. "Sustained recovery will require more than 'getting back on track' and reinvesting in existing services and systems. We need a new approach, which means shifting priorities and focusing on the highest-impact interventions," he added.

The WHO Health Assembly will also discuss global strategies on food safety, oral health, tuberculosis research and strengthening its preparedness for and response to health emergencies.

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