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  • Saudi Arabia and the WHO: A vital partnership for health and development

Saudi Arabia and the WHO: A vital partnership for health and development

Mask-clad men walk along the promenade of Tahlia street in the centre of Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh. (File/AFP)
Mask-clad men walk along the promenade of Tahlia street in the centre of Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh. (File/AFP)
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23 Sep 2020 01:09:38 GMT9
23 Sep 2020 01:09:38 GMT9

The World Health Organization (WHO) heartily congratulates the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Saudi National Day.

Let me take this opportunity to share our pride in, and appreciation of, the tremendous contribution that Saudi Arabia makes in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region and beyond. You are a hugely important partner in our work, providing much essential support.

This year’s Saudi National Day comes at an exceptional time in the history of the region and the entire world. We face many daunting challenges. Perhaps the most severe is the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. This continues to place massive demands on the WHO and our countries. The efforts we have made together over the years in preparing, building, developing and investing in health and development are now being tested to the utmost.

It has been impressive to watch Saudi Arabia responding with confidence and competence. Through a rigorous scientific approach, the authorities have been able to address the pandemic effectively and minimize risks to the population. This success testifies to the strength and solid foundation of the Saudi health system, the resilience of the Kingdom’s infrastructure, and the efficiency of the planning carried out over the years by your leaders.

Alongside the considerable public health challenges, the pandemic has undermined the economic situation in the region and the world generally, with widespread suspension of road and air traffic, and a marked contraction of commercial and economic activity. Yet even in these most difficult circumstances, Saudi Arabia has continued its humanitarian and relief efforts. We are profoundly grateful for the generosity of the Saudi government, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) and the Saudi people.

I would like to thank the government for its continued and extensive support for the WHO’s efforts and programs, particularly in countries in conflict, where there is a dire need for assistance.

Saudi Arabia has been among the first donors to step forward and enable us to continue our activities in many countries. It allows us to provide life-saving supplies to millions of displaced people; to contribute to strengthening exhausted health systems; to train medical personnel and deploy rapid response teams; to maintain critical health programs in areas such as vaccination and nutrition; and to fight chronic and communicable diseases, saving millions of lives.

It is worth pausing to consider what has been achieved in Saudi Arabia itself. Since its foundation, the Kingdom has demonstrated that great things are possible through spirit, commitment, solidarity and action. The country has undergone a veritable renaissance while also building bridges of friendship, partnership and brotherhood with neighboring states and beyond. I look forward to seeing further achievements in years to come.

At the WHO, we believe that solidarity, unity, cooperation and participation are vital not only to stop COVID-19, but also to tackle the many other challenges that confront us. Only by working together can we foster development, peace and progress and realize our vision of “Health for All by All” in our region.

Let me once again express the WHO’s appreciation for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, its wise leadership and compassionate, dedicated people. As we celebrate Saudi National Day with you, we are confident that the Kingdom will continue to play a key role in supporting its neighbors and the whole human community, contributing to the enhancement of the region.

  • Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari is the WHO’s regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean.

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