China’s Belt and Road Initiative can boost push for universal health coverage: WHO chief

The World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom. /Photo courtesy

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has the potential to strengthen the push for universal health coverage, according to the World Health organization’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom.

Tedros made the remarks on Thursday at high-level video conference on Belt and Road International Cooperation.

“It can foster improvements in health and wellbeing, by supporting economic development and improving the determinants of health in participating countries, and in supporting robust, accessible health systems and public health infrastructure,” he said.

The Belt and Road Initiative, a President Xi Jinping brainchild, is expected to ease movement of people and goods across the world, ultimately enhancing cross-border trade and cooperation.

It was first proposed by President Xi in 2013, drawing lessons from the ancient Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. It aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.

Tedros in his address said WHO is committed to working together with China to ensure global health systems benefit from the Belt and Road Initiative.

He also noted China’s ‘Health Silk Road’ and the ‘Digital Silk Road’, which he said points to the importance of innovative forms of cooperation to deal with the challenges we collectively face.

“The ‘Health Silk Road’ has the potential to support partnerships to contain COVID-19, to improve infrastructure and access to much needed health services including diagnostics, and treatment, to strengthen health systems under strain because of the pandemic,” he said.

He also hailed China’s commitment to sharing any vaccine upon development to help tackle the COVID-19 disease globally.

He urged countries around the world to emulate the position taken by the Chinese government and work towards ensuring health security.

Tedros also hailed China’s contribution to various countries around the world in their efforts against COVID-19.

The Chinese government has sent medical teams and supplies to more than 50 African countries to bolster their response to the pandemic.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has been active in its assistance to, and technical collaboration with, other countries. It sent medical teams to many countries and supplies to hundreds of countries, and carried out technical cooperation, sharing its domestic experience,” Tedros said.

He added that the pandemic had proven that “health is not a luxury, or a reward for development. It is a human right, and a prerequisite for development.”

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