The Portuguese Minister for Health, Marta Temido, chaired the opening session of the Global Health Conference, organised by the Portuguese Ministry of Health and the Directorate-General of Health under the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The coordinated, multisectoral effort of countries was the common focus of the different speakers. Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, pointed out that the crisis associated with the COVID-19 pandemic “has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities across the world and has hit the most vulnerable especially hard”, exposing “the grave risks of underfunded health systems and the chronic lack of investments in pandemic preparedness”.
To overcome these constraints, she suggested “increased European investments and strengthening public health and social protection systems around the world”, which “will help to build more resilient societies and economies”, during her recorded message to the conference.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, reinforced the message of union at this opening session, appealing for the commitment of "all" in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and underlining Europe's role since the beginning of the crisis. “Europe has chosen to build a global alliance.
Almost one year ago, we joined forces with the WHO, with other governments and with charitable foundations and together we created the accelerator that is the Global Initiative to help all countries to get access to tests, treatments and vaccines”, she said in a message where she showed particular concern for Africa.
The Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Ghebreyesus, also took part in the opening session, through a recorded message that also referred to the pandemic. In his opinion, however, “the role of the European Union in global health goes beyond the current pandemic”, which has reminded every country that health is the foundation of healthy, resilient societies. During his speech, he highlighted the role of primary healthcare, adding that many Member States, including Portugal, are living proof of the importance of this. “It is the essential foundation of universal health coverage and of health security”, he emphasised.
In his speech, the Portuguese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, pointed to the importance of reinforcing public health systems and global cooperation, through the construction of resources “focused on people's well-being”, investing “more in people, in social cohesion and the importance of public health".
The head of Portuguese diplomacy said that "what we do in Europe is important, but the most important thing is what we do it in the world; only together can we fight the pandemic".
The opening session ended with a recorded message from the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who referred to the enduring commitment of Portugal as a constant, and not just during this past year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The President of Portugal referred to health as a fundamental human right and said that the One Health approach, based on three factors, human health, animal health and environmental health, is the road to “reaching global health safety”.