On 25 March 2021, the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) jointly organized a webinar on the Role of South-South and Triangular Cooperation in sustaining Primary Health Care, Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (RMNCH), and Universal Health Coverage in the context of COVID-19. A side event to the High-Level Forum of Directors-General for Development Cooperation (DG Forum), the webinar brought together experts and practitioners from many different regions of the global South to discuss issues related to South-South and Triangular Cooperation and SDG3 (Good Health and Well-being).
As COVID-19 shook the world in 2020, we saw increased demand for learning from experiences of countries which were ahead of the global pandemic curve and from early government response successes. In response to lockdowns and travel restrictions, governments, civil society, research institutes/academia, the private sector and development practitioners used global webinars to share experiences, lessons learned and knowledge on different measures and strategies adopted by countries in their efforts to respond and mitigate the devastating impact of COVID-19.
Four such webinars, supported by UNOSSC, PAHO/WHO, UNFPA, and UNICEF in 2020, brought together some 1,000 practitioners, over 60 per cent of whom came from governments, NGOs, research institutions/academia, and the private sector. The experiences, progress and lessons learned were presented by the Governments of countries such as China, Dominican Republic, India Nigeria, Suriname, South Korea, Tajikistan and Thailand.
This ongoing collaboration amongst UNOSSC, UNICEF, UNFPA and PAHO/WHO seeks to support and promote South-South and triangular cooperation and country-to-country learning around SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), focusing on primary health care (PHC); reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH); the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV & Syphilis (EMTCT); and within the overarching framework of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and health systems strengthening.
The side event
Health systems struggle to cope with the COVID-19 emergency response while at the same time maintaining the delivery of essential health services, including HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, non-communicable diseases, mental health, sexual and reproductive health, and child health. It did not help that many health systems are not strong enough to start with, and health coverage in many countries are far from universal. For example, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), during the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak, the increased number of deaths caused by measles, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis attributable to health system failures exceeded deaths from Ebola. Access to basic health services, including immunization and the treatment of childhood diseases is of particular concern. We cannot save a child from COVID-19, and then lose many to pneumonia, measles and cholera. Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF
It is auspicious that the theme of the High-level Forum of Directors General for Development Cooperation (DG Forum) which will take place on 17-19 March 2021 is “Trends, Opportunities and Challenges on the Path to Sustainable Development: Strengthening South-South Cooperation and Triangular Cooperation in the COVID-19 Context”. Among others, the Forum seeks to share practical knowledge and experiences of effective South-South and triangular cooperation for COVID-19 responses and mitigation and in this changed contexts, unprecedented challenges and set-backs, how SSTC can support the delivery of the SDGs and achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Building on existing collaboration between UNOSSC, UNFPA, UNICEF and PAHO/WHO with a number of Governments especially during 2020, as well as, the deliberations from the DG Forum, the four agencies are co-hosting a discussion to strengthen SSTC around ensuring life-saving essential health services during COVID-19 response and recovery, with focus on PHC, RMNCH, EMTCT, and COVID-19 vaccination. It could be an opportunity to build an initiative to accelerate SSTC for essential health services over the next two years when most countries would still be recovering from COVID-19.
- To strengthen SSTC for PHC, RMNCH, EMTCT and UHC in the context of COVID-19 through leadership from selected governments already engaged actively in these areas and the collective support by four UN agencies.
- To provide a platform to follow-up on the DG Forum conclusions and identify a limited number of strategic and focus actions over the next two years.
- To contribute through SSTC to ensuring the delivery of essential health services including vaccinations, strengthening health systems and achieving UHC.
Moderator: Dr. Gerry Eijkemans, Chief of the Health Promotion Unit, PAHO/WHO
1. Welcome remarks
- Mr. Adel Abdellatif, Director a.i., UNOSSC
2. Panel Discussion
- Dr. Wessam Mankoula, Lead of Africa CDC Emergency Operations Center: Progress, challenges and the role of inter-country learning and cooperation for health with focus on PHC, RNMCH, and health systems strengthening in the context of COVID-19
- Dr. Luis González Machado, Director General of the National Health Board of Uruguay: experience of Uruguay in sustaining health services while successfully combating COVID-19
- Dr. Habib Ghedira, Président-Directeur Général, Tunisian National Office for Family and Population: Sustaining progress and maintaining Reproductive, Maternal and Young People’s health services in the context of COVID-19
- Mr. Wattanawit Gajaseni, Acting Director-General, Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand: TICA’s experience and how development cooperation agencies can help advance SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being)
- Mr. Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor, a2i Programme, ICT Division/Cabinet Division, UNDP Bangladesh and Advisor of the South-South Network for Public Service Innovation (SSN4PSI): Bangladesh’ successes in its national COVID-19 vaccination
5. Conclusions and Closing remarks
- Ms. Anjali Sen, UNFPA Representative to Indonesia