18 July 2024

  • WHO Regional Director and Japan's Ambassador to Egypt commit to strengthening partnership for ...
    18 July 2024

    18 July 2024, Cairo, Egypt – World Health Organization Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr. Hanan Balkhy today met with Ambassador of Japan to Egypt His Excellency Mr. OKA Hiroshi to discuss ongoing and future collaborations between WHO and the Government of Japan.

    During the meeting, Dr. Balkhy expressed deep appreciation for the longstanding support from the Government of Japan to WHO's efforts in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

    The ongoing $8.3 million donation from Japan to the Ministry of Health and Population in Egypt, facilitated through WHO's Egypt Country Office and the Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, was specifically acknowledged. This project serves as the foundation for medical emergency support to hospitals in Egypt affected by the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Additionally, Japan's support of $10 million through WHO for Gaza, in response to the deterioration of the humanitarian situation inside the Gaza Strip, was highlighted.

    “WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region faces the highest number of emergencies globally, affecting millions of lives. Japan’s support is crucial for saving lives, alleviating suffering, and addressing urgent needs, particularly in a Region also highly impacted by climate change,” Dr. Balkhy noted. “Our strong, ongoing collaboration has been beneficial, particularly in addressing emergencies, bridging humanitarian and development efforts, and strengthening health systems


  • Welcoming remarks by WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Hanan Balkhy for an ...
    17 July 2024

    Given on her behalf by Dr Rana Hajjeh, Director of Programme Management, WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean.

    Cairo, Egypt, 17 July 2024

    Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    It is an honour to welcome you all here tonight. The 50th anniversary of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) is truly a momentous occasion.

    EPI is a cornerstone of global public health. Over the decades, it has saved countless lives and protected millions of children from preventable diseases.

    It is a great example of what can be achieved to safeguard the health of our communities when we all work together.

    Tonight, we are not just celebrating EPI’s achievements; we are also recognizing the dedication of the many individuals and stakeholders who have made it a success. National EPI managers. Immunization advisers. Health care workers. Partner organizations. And of course, governments.

    All have played their part in this remarkable journey.

    New challenges and opportunities lie ahead. We must continue to strengthen our immunization programmes, ensure equitable access to vaccines for all, and address emerging threats. Together, we can build on the legacy of EPI and create a future where every child is protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

    Thank you once again for joining us. Let us celebrate this milestone and recommit to the vital mission of immunization.

    Enjoy your evening!


  • Opening remarks by WHO Regional Director Dr Hanan Balkhy at media briefing, 17 July 2024
    17 July 2024

    Dear colleagues,

    Good morning good afternoon,

    I’ve just returned from the United Arab Emirates, where I visited WHO’s logistics hub in Dubai. At the time of my visit, WHO staff were preparing supplies to be airlifted to Lebanon and Sudan.

    I was impressed at how the logistics hub has significantly expanded its capacity to handle the increased demand for emergency health supplies. In the first six months of 2024 alone, the team has organized 24 charter flights to deliver supplies to 54 countries across all six WHO regions. This compares with 35 flights in the whole of 2023.

    I am extremely grateful to the Government of the United Arab Emirates for facilitating WHO’s work and for supporting some of these deliveries by covering transportation costs.

    Expanding our health supply chain to increase access to life-saving medicines and supplies is one of my three regional flagship initiatives. But several critical issues continue to impede our response to humanitarian emergencies in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region.

    The first challenge is restrictions on access for humanitarian workers and aid.

    Given recent evacuation orders and ongoing hostilities in Gaza, the few health facilities and ambulances that remain functional face massive shortages in fuel and medical supplies. Yet only 16 WHO trucks have been allowed to enter the Gaza Strip in the past four weeks via the Kerem Shalom crossing, where ongoing hostilities, damaged roads, restricted access and a lack of security make the transfer of aid extremely challenging.

    Meanwhile, 44 WHO trucks full of health supplies sit at a standstill in Al


  • Statement by WHO Regional Director Dr Hanan Balkhy on visit to the occupied Palestinian territory
    12 July 2024

    11 July 2024, Cairo, Egypt I have just returned from the occupied Palestinian territory, where I visited the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Jenin, and Gaza.

    The situation in Gaza is concerning on both a human and humanitarian level. I saw firsthand the scale of devastation: lives and homes in ruins, hospitals overwhelmed, and a fully destroyed city.

    Lack of fuel is compromising all health and humanitarian operations.

    Running sewage and garbage litter demolished streets, with the smell of fermented waste permeating the air. This situation is providing the perfect breeding ground for diseases to spread, leading to an increase in cases of acute watery diarrhea and acute respiratory infections.

    Ongoing violence and the breakdown of law and order are devastating an already crippled city and creating an extremely high-risk environment, not just for aid workers but everyone in Gaza.

    The breakdown of law and order also makes it nearly impossible to manage gender-based violence, exposing displaced Palestinians to additional life-threatening risks.

    I met with WHO staff in Gaza, many of whom are national staff who have faced personal loss and suffering. Despite these challenges, they continue to risk their lives to deliver fuel and medical supplies to hospitals, and transfer patients to safety and care, striving to overcome delays and obstructions along the way.

    As a result of increasing hostilities and soaring needs, WHO has expanded its medical supply chain for Gaza. However, much of this aid remains stuck on the wrong side of


  • WHO Steps Up Cross-Regional Efforts for Sudan’s Humanitarian Emergency
    11 July 2024

    ADRE, CHAD, 10 JULY 2024 – As millions flee war and hunger in Sudan, senior leadership from WHO’s Africa and Eastern Mediterranean Regions converged in Chad, which hosts the largest number of Sudanese refugees, to assess the urgent health needs of people impacted by this complex and deteriorating humanitarian crisis.

    The mission aims to optimize WHO operations in Chad, Sudan, and the offices of the African Region (AFRO) and the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO) to serve affected communities with crucial medical care and scale up cross-border operations for humanitarian assistance into the Darfur states of Sudan.

    “As WHO’s Representative for Sudan, it is difficult to see this level of suffering among the refugees. They shared stories of violence, loss, and hunger. With the health system severely degraded – all 241 health facilities in Central Darfur have sustained damage – disease spreading, and famine looming, it is increasingly challenging to meet the soaring health needs. If we don’t act with urgency, we will see higher morbidity, mortality, and transgenerational impact of the current conflict,” said Dr. Shible Sahbani.

    Hunger is rising at devastating rates. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), the global authority on famine, says Sudan is facing the worst levels of acute food insecurity ever recorded by the IPC in the country. In the last six months, the number of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity has increased


  • Interregional meeting: Advancing Universal Health Coverage and Health Security through Private ...
    9 July 2024

    9 July 2024 – If we are to achieve the health-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, we need a paradigm shift, based on a new, more collaborative approach. This must harness the resources of all health actors and ensure that the private sector is also engaged in efforts to achieve public health goals. 

    On 15–17 July 2024, the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean and WHO headquarters will cohost, in Cairo, Egypt, a 3-day interregional meeting on private sector engagement – the first such meeting to be hosted by WHO globally. 

    The aim is to bring together the global, regional and country levels of the Organization to support the private sector engagement agenda. Participants joining from 5 WHO regions will include representatives of health ministries, partners, donors and the private sector, as well as relevant WHO teams. 

    The meeting is also a chance to discuss how to leverage the role of the private health sector in the regional flagship initiatives set out by the WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. In particular, the private sector could have an impact on the initiatives to strengthen the health workforce and the supply chain in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. 

    Now more than ever, it is also vital to engage the private sector to maintain and provide health services in fragile, conflict-affected and vulnerable settings, given the increasing needs. The number of displaced people in the Region continues to grow as people are forced from their homes by natural disasters, man-made causes and climate change impacts. 



  • Regional Director's statement during the press briefing on emergencies in the Eastern ...
    26 June 2024

    When we held our first press briefing on health emergencies after I took office about four months ago, I could not have foreseen the escalation of violence in our Region. The situation has grown more relentless and unforgiving, while life-saving aid remains out of reach for too many whose lives depend on it. 

    In Gaza, the health crisis continues to reach horrifying levels. Over a million people in Rafah have been displaced again since early May. Except for an ICRC field hospital, there are no functioning hospitals left in Rafah. At least 10 000 people are stuck within Gaza in desperate need of medical evacuations, although several countries around the world are ready to offer help.  At the recent conference in Jordan on the Urgent Humanitarian Response for Gaza, I emphasized that our consistent calls for the protection of healthcare and sustained access to aid remain unmet. 

    In Sudan, 12 million people have been displaced since the conflict escalated in early 2023. In parts of Khartoum, Darfur, and the Kordofan regions, there is an imminent risk of famine as people are still cut off from food and health assistance. Around 2 million people are at high risk of slipping into catastrophic hunger. Health care continues to come under attack. On June 21, the only functioning maternity hospital in El Fasher, North Darfur, was attacked and is only partially functional now. 

    These are the harrowing realities of our Region, where the politicization of health has left humanitarians facing severe access restrictions and


  • WHO concerned about escalating health crisis in West Bank
    15 June 2024

    15 June 2024, Jerusalem/Cairo/Geneva WHO remains concerned about the escalating health crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory, including the West Bank, where attacks on health infrastructure and increased restrictions on movement are obstructing access to health care.  

    A spike in violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the war in Gaza started has resulted in the deaths of 521 Palestinians, including 126 children between 7 October 2023 and 10 June 2024. In addition, over 5200 people, 800 of them children, have been injured, adding to the growing burden of trauma and emergency care at already strained health facilities. 

    As of 28 May, WHO has documented 480 attacks on health care in the West Bank since 7 October 2023, resulting in 16 deaths and 95 injuries. The attacks affected 54 health facilities, 20 mobile clinics, and 319 ambulances. Fifty-nine percent of the attacks occurred in the cities of Tulkarem, Jenin, and Nablus. They include attacks on health infrastructure and ambulances, detention of health workers and patients, obstruction of their access to health facilities, use of force on health workers and militarized searches of ambulances and staff. 

    The closure of checkpoints, arbitrary obstructions, and detentions of health workers, rising insecurity, as well as the siege and closure of entire towns and communities has made movement within the West Bank increasingly restricted, impeding access to health facilities. Extensive infrastructure and housing damage, particularly in the northern West Bank, have compounded the situation


  • World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2024: ensuring older people’s safety in emergencies
    12 June 2024

    15 June 2024, Cairo, Egypt – On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day 2024, the spotlight is on older people in emergencies. Older people often face mobility issues, chronic health conditions or social isolation –some of the factors that can hinder their ability to access aid, evacuate safely or receive timely medical care and support services. The chaos and stress of emergencies can make such conditions worse, increasing the risk of elder abuse.

    Populations are ageing rapidly, with the number of people aged 60 years and above globally expected to rise from 900 million in 2015 to about 2 billion in 2050. Elder abuse is therefore predicted to rise too. Against this backdrop, it is increasingly vital to emphasize that respect and care for older people are human rights that should never be violated.

    Abuse of older people may be a single or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action which causes harm or distress to an older person. Abuse of older people can take many forms, including physical, sexual, psychological or emotional abuse. Financial or material abuse; abandonment; neglect; or serious loss of dignity and respect are also types of elder abuse.

    Like other forms of violence, rates of abuse of older people have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency situations such as pandemics, natural disasters or conflicts disproportionately affect older people, by making existing vulnerabilities


  • Unsafe food makes 100 million people ill each year in the Region
    6 June 2024

    6 June 2024, Cairo, Egypt – “Prepare for the unexpected” is the theme of the sixth World Food Safety Day, marked today by the United Nations. Food businesses, governments and consumers can all help prevent food contamination and foodborne illnesses.

    Food must be protected at every stage from production to consumption. WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) jointly facilitate the international day to raise awareness of this issue globally.

    The Eastern Mediterranean Region bears a substantial burden of foodborne diseases. According to WHO estimates from 2015, 100 million people living in the Region experience foodborne illnesses each year – 32 million of those cases are children aged under 5 years.

    Foodborne diarrhoeal diseases caused by pathogens make up 70% of the foodborne disease burden in the Region. About 37 000 people a year in the Region die from eating unsafe food, mainly due to foodborne diarrhoeal diseases, typhoid fever, hepatitis A and brucellosis. Food safety measures are vital to mitigate the impact of these diseases on health and well-being in the Region and globally.

    WHO estimates of the global burden of foodborne diseases

    Besides foodborne pathogens, natural toxins and synthetic chemicals may also cause some foodborne diseases. A large number of chemical contaminants in food can cause serious noncommunicable diseases, including cancer; organ failure; and reproductive and developmental impairments.

    The Region grapples with public health challenges stemming from climate


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