Intervention by H.E. PR of Bangladesh, Ambassador Rabab Fatima Virtual GOF meeting on Universal Health Coverage and Global Health on 15 May 2020

Thank you, co-chairs, for organizing this timely event. I also thank the briefers for sharing their valuable insights.

The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 is a stark reminder for all countries, regardless of their levels of development, of the need to renew political commitment to health as an important component of the 2030 agenda. This pandemic has shown us that a resilient health system is needed to provide a timely response to emergencies, while maintaining and protecting the economy.

The impact of COVID-19 has overwhelmed the health systems of all affected countries, and my country is no exception. Previous pandemic outbreaks have demonstrated that when health systems are overwhelmed, mortality from vaccine-preventable and other treatable conditions can also increase dramatically.  The disruption of regular immunization services could severely impact the health of children. To combat this we have continued routine immunization. We are conscious that a pandemic response should not come at the cost of regular health care.

The pandemic hit hard the lower-income groups and those in the informal sectors. Side by side with extensive recovery packages, special measures have been taken for healthcare and treatment as a matter of priority. We have assigned COVID-19 dedicated hospitals and beds throughout the country. A 2100 bed field hospital was built in our capital for COVID-19 in just three weeks, with provisions to double its capacity. These measures have made free other hospitals and provided unhindered access to regular patients to essential and regular health services, such as maternal and child health, and other specialized care.

The dual effort of financial risk protection and strengthening and repurposing of our national health systems has enabled us to ensure UHC, in the midst of the pandemic. Our extensive network of community health clinics are playing a critical role, and so are the many health NGOs in the country, alongside the public health sector. To ensure further UHC, we are also using tele-medicine services.

One of the key lessons from this crisis is that there is an urgent need to invest more in the health sector; to strengthen capacity, both in terms of quality and outreach. Awareness, basic health and hygiene measures, and affordable health care are the only way to stem future outbreaks. And we will need international support and cooperation for the availability of affordable vaccines, medicines, and equipment. WHO should, now more than ever, strengthen its mission to promote health, and serve the vulnerable, through advocating universal health coverage.

We all recognize that the dangers of COVID-19 to the global economy and sustainable development are more devastating than it might look now.  Our Group has an important role now. My delegation would support convening a special event at the HLPF on UHC and pandemic response.

I thank you, Mr. Chair.