The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday marked World Health Day, and the agency’s 70th anniversary, with a strong call for universal health coverage, to ensure that all people can get quality health services, where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship.
“Health is a human right. No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health service they need,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his message prior to the Day, which is marked annually on 7 April.
According to WHO, at least half the world’s population do not have coverage for full essential health services, with about 100 million people living on $1.90 or less a day because they have to pay for health care.
“Universal health coverage is a political choice. It takes vision, courage and long-term thinking,” said Mr. Tedros, adding “But the payoff is a safer, fairer and healthier world for everyone.”
Secretary-General António Guterres recalled that WHO was founded on the principle that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.”
“Since then, average global life expectancy has expanded by 23 years,” he continued, noting the eradication of smallpox and the dissipation of polio.
Mr. Guterres stressed that although millions more children live to celebrate their fifth birthday, people around the world still lacked vital health services.
“Today, we join WHO in recommitting to ensure that everyone, everywhere, gets the health services they need,” Mr. Guterres said.
“Join me in calling for Health for All,” concluded the Secretary-General.