Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Cuban minister heads 67th World Health Assembly

    Maina Waruru

    21/05/14
[GENEVA] Developing countries asserted their membership domination as the 67th World Health Assembly (WHA) opened in Geneva, Switzerland this week (19 May), getting one of their own elected to head the WHO’s supreme decision-making organ. 

As tradition demands, the meeting started with the first item on its agenda— the election of a new president before any other business, just after the welcome address.

The seat of president that rotates on a regional basis yearly, this time round went to the Americas, with Cuba’s public health minister Roberto Morales, a clean-shaven man of medium built and height, officially taking charge of the proceedings to discuss the world’s health situation.

“With the president and most of the vice-presidents to the assembly from developing countries, it was only appropriate to assume that the health needs of the global South will get even more serious attention.”

Maina Waruru

Morales first task as the new WHA president was to preside over the election of five vice-presidents to the assembly, representing the five different regions of the world.

Here the developing world featured again as Africa’s representative from the Democratic Republic of Congo was elected to the panel. The Middle East got the representative from Bahrain elected, while the Pacific’s vice-president choice came from Fiji. Lithuania was chosen to represent Europe’s interests, while Asia’s successful nominee came from Sri Lanka.

With the president and most of the vice-presidents to the assembly from developing countries, it was only appropriate to assume that the health needs of the global South will get even more serious attention.

As the session started off smoothly with the successful elections, the proceedings are likely to delve into the most pressing health issues currently facing the world.

The new president Morales appeared to lend credence to this line of thinking when he declared that issues afflicting developing countries were also close to his heart and that it was his wish they would be given the attention they deserve and the solutions they warrant.

He cited the challenges regarding the link between poverty, food security, nutrition and health, and the impact of climate change on the health of populations.

Morales emphasised in his acceptance speech that there was a need to find practical solutions to these challenges because they continue to weigh heavily on the wellbeing of the world’s poorer people.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.