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UN South Asia regional meeting to focus on health care financing
16 March 2009 / 12:24

[Dateline: New York | Author: DESA]

The signing of the host country agreement by Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang and Ambassador PalihakkaraThe signing of the host country agreement by Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang and Ambassador Palihakkara, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN | Credit: UN-DESA Photo/Paul SimonIn many low-income countries around the world, few people have access to affordable health care. Increasing financial difficulties have excluded the most vulnerable and their families from obtaining the basic health services.

The current global financial and economic downturn is likely to unravel the gains made in the area of health. With lower national incomes and limited health expenditure levels, households are forced to using out-of-pocket payments as a way of covering the high cost of health care.

In such bleak financial times, the strengthening of national health financing is needed to ensure equitable access to health services.

The impact of the worldwide financial and economic crisis on health will be discussed during the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) of the Regional Ministerial Meeting of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on “Financing Strategies for Health Care", to be held from 16 to 18 March in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Organized by the Government of Sri Lanka, in collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the meeting will underscore good practices, assess new initiatives and present challenges in domestic and external financing for health care, and address the rising challenges of public health systems. The event will also focus on the specific situations of post-crisis countries, which face special challenges in the area of health.

A host country agreement, which defines the responsibilities of the Sri Lanka Government and the United Nations for the South Asia regional meeting, was signed by UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang and Ambassador Palihakkara, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, on 12 March 2009.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently said that “health is a foundation for prosperity, stability and poverty reduction,” emphasizing that global health is one of his top priorities. [SG remarks

The Sri Lanka meeting will attract more than 100 participants from the governments in the region, multilateral organizations, aid agencies, civil society, the private sector and academia. Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, Ambassador Hamidon Ali, Vice-President of ECOSOC, and Thomas Stelzer, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, UN-DESA, will deliver the opening remarks.

“At a time of shrinking health budgets, we must not waver. We must live up to our commitments by all learning to do more with less” says Mr. Stelzer.

The outcome of the two-day meeting will contribute to this year’s AMR, to take place in Geneva in July 2009 during the Substantive Session of ECOSOC. The theme of the 2009 Review is "Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to global public health".

More Information

South Asia Regional Ministerial Meeting on “Financing Strategies for Healthcare", Colombo, Sri Lanka

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA)

World Health Organization (WHO)

Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

United Nations News Center-Focus: Health, Poverty, Food Security

ECOSOC news and media services

UN-ECOSOC radio