After COVID-19, let’s build equitable health care systems and more resilient societies

07 April 2021

Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem on World Health Day

A healthier world is a fairer world. Today as we celebrate World Health Day, let us recall how much health has improved globally since the first time the day was marked over 70 years ago, even as we are reminded in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic just how fragile those gains can be.

While everyone has been vulnerable to COVID-19, historically marginalized groups have been disproportionately affected.  These inequalities have also pushed millions of people to the brink of poverty and food insecurity, and denied women their reproductive rights.

UNFPA estimates that 12 million women globally have lost access to family planning services due to pandemic-related disruptions, resulting in 1.4 million unintended pregnancies. Where women cannot make fundamental choices about their own bodies, the vulnerabilities and consequences of the pandemic will be broad and long lasting.

Together, we must shape a world that is healthier, fairer and more resilient. The way forward starts with greater investment in health-care systems that work for everyone, and that includes ensuring equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone, everywhere.

Looking ahead, we also need enhanced access to the tools, supplies and trained service providers that can improve the quality and reach of care, including sexual and reproductive health care, especially for those marginalized and at risk of being left behind.

That is why UNFPA is ensuring sustainable supplies of modern contraceptives to communities throughout the developing world. We are training midwives. We are providing protection services for survivors of gender-based violence. We are advising governments on strengthening health systems so they can withstand the pandemic and recover from crises more quickly.

Let us renew our commitment to universal health coverage, which is essential for reducing inequalities, strengthening resilience and expanding access to sexual and reproductive health.

Let us redouble our efforts to invest in and work towards the full achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Let us protect the rights and choices of all women and girls as we work together to bring an end to the pandemic and create a healthier world for all.

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