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Geneva, 20 May 2014 (PAHO/WHO) — As delegates to the World Health Assembly continued their discussions on a series of proposals for global health action, a working commission took up the issue of reform in the World Health Organization (WHO) itself. Areas of discussion included WHO collaboration with non-state actors, strategic allocation of resources, and improved decision making by WHO's governing bodies (see A67/54 and A67/5).  

Special guest speakers First Lady Christine Kaseba-Sata of Zambia, a WHO goodwill ambassador, and Melinda Gates, co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, focused on the issues of gender-based violence and newborn health (see https://bit.ly/1kmHbSr).

Ministers of health from countries around the world highlighted their countries' health priorities and voiced concerns on the issue of climate change and its effects on health. From the Americas, delegates who spoke today represented Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.

During a technical session, delegates analyzed a proposed plan of action to end preventable newborn deaths, which establishes specific targets for reductions by 2030 and key actions for achieving them (see https://bit.ly/1i1jOJP).

The Americas at the Assembly

In a trilateral meeting, Canada, Mexico and the United States agreed to strengthen information sharing during health emergencies. Secretary of Health of Mexico Mercedes Juan, Minister of Health of Canada Rona Ambrose and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius signed a declaration of intent to share public information and communication products in advance during health emergencies of mutual interest. The accord supports the requirements of the International Health Regulations.

Brazil and Venezuela signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen joint action to eliminate onchocerciasis (river blindness) in the Yanomami area, the final endemic area of the disease in the Americas, which is shared by both countries.

PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne said the agreement is important for the inhabitants of the area and noted that the región has worked hard to eliminate this disease. She pledged PAHO's support for joint action by Brazil and Venezuela (see https://bit.ly/1o3q0by).

Brazil organized a special session on tuberculosis, in which WHO Director-General Chan participated. Delegates already agreed on a strategy for prevention, care and control of TB after 2015.

During the session, Minister of Health of Brazil Arthur Chioro highlighted his country's support for the global TB plan. He said Brazil has strengthened health services for TB patients and that despite his country's economic growth, obstacles to care remain for the most vulnerable people with TB (see 67/11).

Ecuador's delegation organized a special session to discuss ways of improving the health of people with disabilities. The country is sponsoring a resolution endorsing a global plan on disabilities that would be implemented between 2014 and 2021 (see A67/A/CONF./3)

Argentina's delegation sponsored an event on health promotion, national immunization, and control of hepatitis A. The Assembly will discuss a resolution on improving the health of patients with viral hepatitis (A67/13).

Together with other countries, Uruguay organized a side event on sexual and reproductive health and priorities for action in this area after 2015. Canada also sponsored an event, focused on reaching underserved populations and eliminating discrimination to ensure universal health care.

The United States and Brazil were involved in organizing discussions on autism-spectrum disorders, which will be addressed in a resolution on comprehensive and coordinated efforts in this area (see A67/17).

PAHO's Director held meetings with ministers and heads of delegations of the countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). She also participated in a reception for the President of the Assembly, Minister of Health of Cuba Roberto Morales Ojeda.