20 April 2024

  • Be ONE VOICE against tobacco: call for video messages
    8 April 2024

    Join our ONE VOICE campaign in the runup to World No Tobacco Day on 31 May 2024. To take part, record a short video message that speaks to your peers about the sneaky ways that tobacco companies try to get young people hooked on nicotine.

    You can submit a video if you’re a young person aged 13–35 years and live in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region. The deadline to share your video with us is [10 May 2024].

    We’ll select 100 videos to use in our World No Tobacco Day 2024 campaign. This year, our focus is all about protecting young people from tobacco industry tactics to promote their products.

    All young people can speak in ONE VOICE against tobacco. Together, we can create a healthier, tobacco-free future. Join our campaign and let your voice be heard.

    What to put in your video

    We want you to share your knowledge of the harms of tobacco and your views and experiences of how the tobacco industry tries to reach young people.

    Your video should cover one or more of the following:

    why it’s important to keep young people safe from tobacco and nicotine products

    how the tobacco industry tries to get young people like you to use these products

    whether you ever feel pressured by the tobacco industry to start using these products

    the best way to protect young people from being tempted to use these products.

    Submission guidelines

    Keep your message short: no more than 2 minutes.

    Speak from the heart and share your genuine point of


  • Visiting Lebanon, WHO Regional Director affirms support to address multiple health system challenges
    7 April 2024

    7 April 2024, Beirut, Lebanon – WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Hanan Balkhy concluded a 2-day visit to Beirut, Lebanon, last week at a time when hostilities are escalating on Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.

    The visit that took place on 2 and 3 April represented the third country visit on Dr Balkhy’s official tour of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region since taking office in February 2024.

    “Lebanon’s health system faces multiple challenges, from hosting 1.5 million Syrian refugees to hostilities in the south targeting health workers, facilities and ambulances,” said Dr Balkhy. “The Ministry of Public Health and partners need significant support and sustainable financing. It will be critical to assist them to maintain positive health outcomes as they pursue health reforms.”

    Other challenges that face the health system include critical shortages in the health workforce, including medical doctors and nurses, and in medicines, medical equipment and other essential health supplies. We need to ensure that everyone living in the country is having access to the basic health services they need, when and where they need them.

    With the escalation of tensions at the southern border, WHO was quick to initiate a readiness and preparedness plan in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health, partners and donors. One of the main components of the readiness plan is preparing the referral hospitals


  • Six months of war leave Al-Shifa hospital in ruins, WHO mission reports
    7 April 2024

    6 April 2024, Jerusalem, Cairo, Geneva - A WHO-led multi-agency mission accessed Al-Shifa Hospital in north Gaza on 5 April to conduct a preliminary assessment of the extent of destruction and identify needs to guide future efforts to restore the facility. The highly complex mission was conducted in close partnership with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS), United Nations Department for Safety and Security (UNDSS), and in collaboration with the acting Hospital Director.

    Prior to the mission, WHO’s efforts to reach the hospital to medically evacuate patients and staff and conduct an assessment were denied, delayed or impeded six times between 25 March and 1April.

    Like the majority of the north, Al-Shifa Hospital once the largest and most important referral hospital in Gaza – is now an empty shell after the latest siege. No patients remain at the facility. Most of thebuildings are extensively damaged or destroyed and the majority ofequipment is unusable or reduced to ashes. The WHO team said that the scale of devastation has left the facility completely non-functional, further reducing access to life-saving health care in Gaza. Restoring even minimal functionality in the short term seems implausible and will require substantial efforts to assess and clearthe grounds for unexploded ordnance to ensure safety and accessibility for partners to bring in equipment and supplies. 

    The hospital’s emergency department, surgical, and maternity ward buildings are extensively damaged due to explosives and fire. The western wall of the emergency department and northern wall of the neonatal intensive care department


  • Meet the heroes powering our emergency response: Dr Ahmed Al Soofi Head of WHO suboffice in Al ...
    7 April 2024

    Episode 5

    Dr Ahmed Al Soofi
    Head of WHO suboffice in Al Hudaydah, Yemen
    My journey with WHO began in 2007, following years of service with Yemen’s health ministry and a Belgian nongovernmental organization dedicated to assisting people with disabilities.

    Al-Hudaydah, nestled by the Red Sea, presents unique challenges. It has experienced years of conflict and continues to suffer consistent instability. This has escalated in the past few months, as the impact of the war in the occupied Palestinian territory has spilled over into Yemen. In fact, only the other day, when I was leaving the office, there was an airstrike close by, about 500 metres away.

    But it has not been easy here for years. One of the most challenging times for Hudaydah was in the second half of 2018. I remember travelling from Hudaydah to Aden, where my family lives, to spend the last few days of Ramadan with them, when I had to return to work immediately after arriving home.

    Just as I’d reached Aden, I had received an urgent call from the WHO Representative to Yemen, who was in Geneva at the time. He told me the situation in Hudaydah was rapidly worsening and that it had become the main area of the conflict in Yemen. I


  • UN agencies launch joint programme to support Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon in climate change response
    4 April 2024

    4 April 2024, Cairo, Egypt – The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) today launched a joint programme to support the health system responses of the governments of Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to climate change adaptation and risk reduction over the coming two years. 

    The programme, operating under the Migration Multi-Partner Trust Fund, aims to strengthen the resilience of health systems and migrant populations to climate change and disaster risks by incorporating an inclusive human mobility lens into national public health adaptation and risk reduction strategies of the target countries. 

    “Natural hazards that displace people, claim lives, damage property and impact health are strongly linked to climate change,” said Mr Othman Belbeisi, IOM Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.  “Thus, there is a strong need for a comprehensive approach that recognizes the linkages between climate change adaptation and risk reduction efforts in a manner that is inclusive of all impacted communities including migrants.” 

    “The escalating impacts of climate change globally and particularly in our region are leading to drastic health risks, especially among migrants who face difficulties in accessing adequate health services. This programme aims to create a coherent, multistakeholder approach to enhance resilience and preparedness within health systems, with a focus on the needs of migrants, who are often affected by climate change and its related risks,” said Dr Hanan Balkhy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. 

    “The UNDRR Regional Office for Arab States is committed to supporting local


  • World Health Day 2024 highlights the right to health
    4 April 2024

    7 April 2024, Cairo, Egypt – “My health, my right”, the theme for World Health Day 2024, is a reminder that health is a fundamental right that must be ensured for every human being.

    Health as a human right is recognized in the WHO Constitution, and the right to health has been central to WHO’s identity and mandate since the start.

    Health is also recognized as a human right in the constitution of at least 140 countries, including 20 countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Region. All WHO Member States have ratified at least one treaty that recognizes the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

    This rarely translates into action on the ground, however. As a result, the right to health of millions of people globally is increasingly under threat.

    At least 4.5 billion people – more than half of the world’s population – are not fully covered by essential health services. Such a shocking reality calls for urgent action by all responsible parties.

    The right to health closely relates to and relies upon the realization of other human rights. These include the rights to life, food, housing, work, education, privacy, access to information, freedom from torture, and the freedoms of association, assembly and movement. The right to health not only includes access to health services but also access to economic stability, quality education, employment, housing, decent life amenities and other aspects


  • WHO commends Iraq’s world-first in polio transition
    1 April 2024

    1 April 2024 – As of January 2024, Iraq has achieved the polio transition process in full. It is the first country among the polio transition priority countries to achieve this remarkable feat.

    Polio transition involves repurposing polio assets – knowledge, network and infrastructure – to strengthen the broader public health functions of a country within the overall context of strengthening the national health system. These wider functions include immunization, vaccine-preventable diseases surveillance, and emergency preparedness and response.

    To safeguard polio essential functions through sustainable resources, it is crucial to achieve the full transition by shifting from external to domestic financing. In turn, successful polio transition and the integration and maintenance of polio assets to strengthen routine immunization, disease surveillance and outbreak response have social and economic benefits and offer a very high return on investment.

    Dr Hanan Balkhy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, commended Iraq’s public health win and the positive impact it will yield: “I would like to congratulate Iraq for the achievement of polio transition in full in a considerably short period of time. This is a great step towards enhancing the health system’s resilience and regaining its capabilities to better serve the Iraqi population, making the best use


  • WHO mourns loss of team member killed in Syria
    26 March 2024

    Statement by Dr Hanan Balkhy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean

    26 March 2024– On behalf of the World Health Organization, it is with profound sorrow that we announce the tragic loss of one of our dedicated team members, Engineer Emad Shehab, in Deir-ez-Zor City, Syria, who lost his life in the early hours of Tuesday morning when his building was struck during a series of airstrikes across the Governorate. We extend our deepest condolences to Eng. Shehab’s family, friends, and colleagues during this difficult time.

    Eng. Shehab, 42, served as a WHO focal point for water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) in Deir-ez-Zor since 2022. He was a highly skilled professional who brought unwavering commitment and expertise to his role. His contributions to improving WASH conditions in health facilities, particularly his pivotal role in renovating the sewage system at Al Assad Public Hospital, were invaluable. His work on water quality testing in Deir-ez-Zor – located directly along the Euphrates River – was a critical part of outbreak detection and early response, including the cholera outbreak in Syria. Colleagues remember Eng. Shehab as tremendously dedicated to this work – spending hours in the field, often under challenging circumstances, and even occasionally hand-carrying water samples to central laboratories when necessary to ensure timely testing.

    Eng. Shehab earned his bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering from Aleppo University. Prior to working with WHO, he had extensive experience in engineering and project management working with


  • Yemen conflict enters 10th year with over 17 million people in need of health aid
    25 March 2024

    The country faces an alarmingly high malnutrition rate, with nearly 2.4 million children aged under 5 years suffering from stunting.

    25 March 2024, Cairo, Egypt – The conflict in Yemen enters its 10th year today, with over half of the country’s population in desperate need of aid and an estimated 17.8 million people requiring health assistance, 50% of them children.

    “It’s almost as if ongoing conflicts have become an accepted part of the everyday realities of life in the region. It’s important to step back and remember that hungry children, disease outbreaks, hospitals shutting down … these are not to be normalized,” said Dr Hanan Balkhy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.

    “The conflict has destroyed everything … many health facilities have shut down, epidemics have spread, the diseases that felt like a part of the past have returned, such as polio and cholera,” said Dr Eman Tajeldeen, who works at the Central Laboratory in Aden. “We love Yemen, and we would love to see Yemen back.”

    Children are particularly vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio, measles, pertussis and diphtheria, while also suffering from alarmingly high malnutrition rates. Nearly half of all children under five, nearly 2.4 million children, suffer from moderate to severe stunting.

    “After 9 years of conflict, deteriorating health outcomes and destroyed infrastructure, emergency health and humanitarian needs control the lives of millions of Yemenis and limit their ability to achieve inclusive sustainable development,” said Dr Arturo Pesigan, WHO Representative


  • Opening remarks by Dr Hanan Hassan Balkhy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, ...
    24 March 2024

    24 March 2024

    Thank you for gathering here today on World Tuberculosis Day. As one of the most deadly infectious diseases in the world, TB remains a pressing challenge to all WHO regions. In September 2023, the United Nations General Assembly convened its second high-level meeting on tuberculosis, at which Member States renewed their commitments to advance global, regional and national efforts towards ending the TB epidemic by endorsing a political declaration on TB with ambitious targets for the next five years.

    Despite the setbacks of the COVID-19 emergency, countries and territories of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region have fully recovered in terms of the pandemic’s impacts on TB prevention and care. The number of notified people in the Region diagnosed with TB is 579 thousand cases. This exceeds the 2019 level. The treatment success rates in the Region are among the highest of all six WHO regions. We are finding more people with TB, and we are treating most of them successfully. WHO support to its Member States has led to improvements in the quality of services, treatment outcomes and heightened quality of life for affected people. But our Region remains particularly slow in one important area: tuberculosis preventive treatment.

    Currently only 5% of eligible contacts of TB patients and 8% of people living with HIV in the Region receive the preventive treatment.

    The Region’s performance in this area is a cause for concern, as the low levels of access to preventive treatment put many people at unnecessary risk of developing TB disease.


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