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Roberto Morales Ojeda addresses the World Health Assembly as its outgoing president

Geneva, 18 May 2015 (PAHO/WHO) — Cuba's minister of health, Roberto Morales Ojeda, addressed the 68th World Health Assembly today as outgoing president of the body. He highlighted his country's support for the fight against Ebola in West Africa, while urging efforts to strengthen countries' health systems to prevent and control future disease outbreaks.

Morales Ojeda, who served as president of the 67th World Health Assembly in 2014, said he considered his election by WHO member countries as recognition of his country's health achievements at home and health cooperation efforts abroad. Morales Ojeda was the first Cuban to serve as president of the World Health Assembly.

Roberto Morales Ojeda addresses the World Health Assembly as its outgoing president

The Assembly's Presidency rotates annually among the six constituent regions of the World Health Organization (WHO). Last year, Cuba occupied the position on behalf of the Americas. This year, India's minister of health, Shri Shripad Yesso Naik, was elected president of the 68th Assembly, representing the South East Asia region.

In his final remarks as president of the Assembly, Morales Ojeda noted that Cuba, at the request of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, sent 200 doctors to help Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone respond to the Ebola outbreak that began in 2014. This was in addition to Cuban medical brigade members who were already working in 32 African countries. He said the Cuban doctors have worked jointly with teams from the United States, England, and African Union countries, among others, in responding to the Ebola outbreak.

Morales Ojeda said the outbreak has made it clear that many countries' health systems lack the capacity to respond to outbreaks and emergencies. "This has led to a view worldwide that work needs to be done to develop resilient systems." He welcomed the inclusion of the subject on the agenda of the 68th World Health Assembly.

The World Health Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of WHO. Its principal function is to determine WHO policy, appoint the Organization's director-general, supervise financial policy, and review and adopt the proposed budget.

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The Americas in the World Health Assembly
PAHO/WHO Cuba