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Newly elected PAHO director invites Fiocruz to join efforts for equity of countries at the UN


Fiocruz News Agency (AFN)


During his participation in a seminar organized by Fiocruz last Wednesday (5 October), the newly elected director of the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), Jarbas Barbosa, mentioned challenges in the region, such as the effects of the pandemic, the persistence of communicable diseases, the need to strengthen primary healthcare and the production of inputs, such as vaccines, in the region. The Brazilian public health physician also spoke about the intentions of cooperation between the Americas and Africa and invited Fiocruz to join forces in an effort to ensure, through training, for instance, the equity of representatives from all countries of the region of this United Nations agency.

The elected director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), Jarbas Barbosa, during his participation in a seminar organized by Cris/ Fiocruz

Barbosa was welcomed at this week’s edition of the Advanced Seminars in Global Health and Health Diplomacy of the Fiocruz Global Health Center (Cris/Fiocruz) by the Foundation’s president, Nísia Trindade Lima. She emphasized the relevance of the global health course, of which the seminar is part, and greeted the new director, reinstating Fiocruz’s commitment to trying to put into action an agenda to promote the goals that Jarbas’ platform as a candidate had presented.

Lima stressed the fact that Barbosa will take office in February 2023, a period during which Fiocruz will be intensifying its program of debates on local production of vaccines, diagnostic material, medicines, and other health-related inputs, by organizing a great international seminar. Lima repeated that the welcome Barbosa received at the webinar was “in particular the affirmation of a trajectory that is to be constructed; a road in which, in the period Barbosa worked side by side with Carissa Etienne [current PAHO director] at the head of this important organization, we successfully strengthened a strategy, for historical cooperation and regional affirmation of Latin America as well as for the challenges faced in the fight against the pandemic”.

Lima emphasized the lessons the pandemic may have left us with: “the importance of institutions, of strengthened health systems, of universal systems, and of the guarantee of equity in the field of science, technology, and innovation. The promotion of efforts, in the sense of fomenting local production in our region, is crucial, and it has to do with the aspirations of other regions, such as Asia and Africa”.

About Barbosa’s mandate, Lima said that development and equity in the Global South and in the South-South and South-North-South cooperation axis will be crucial. In her opinion, there are many initiatives that Barbosa has already led and will continue to implement, such as the platform for the production of inputs and the guarantee of equitable access in the region. “I am always very proud when the fact that Barbosa studied at the National School of Public Health [Ensp/Fiocruz] and at Fiocruz Pernambuco is mentioned. You will undoubtedly continue in this beautiful journey at this crucial moment of countries recovering and of the need to strengthen the collective health agenda”, she concluded.

More equity and cooperation

Barbosa thanked Lima and complimented her leadership as she placed Fiocruz “at the vanguard of public health in the region and in the world”, mentioning, for instance, the “record-time” conclusion of technology transfer to produce a 100% Brazilian vaccine against COVID-19, and its participation in the mRNA vaccines development hub.

About the subject of the seminar, Political agendas for health in the Americas and in Africa, Barbosa stated that health systems must first end the pandemic and never let their guard down. In his opinion, one must remain vigilant, increase vaccination, especially of the most vulnerable groups, and guarantee equitable access to the new antiviral drugs. “It is also important to implement all the lessons we have learned with the pandemic, from strengthening local capacity of detection and response to public health emergencies, to the use of new platforms, such as telemedicine, to eliminate barriers and increase access to health systems; how we can make our health systems more resilient; strengthen primary healthcare so it can respond to the complex epidemiological picture we have today, with persisting communicable diseases, such as malaria, to the unacceptable rate of preventable deaths by chronic non-communicable diseases that still occur because our primary healthcare is not suitable for detecting and treating them”.

Barbosa also mentioned problems such as death by violence or accidents, in addition to the health impacts of climate change. The issue brought by Lima, autonomy and the production of inputs such as vaccines and medicines in the region, was also approached by Barbosa, who mentioned examples of cooperation in this sense, such as the mRNA vaccine hub in South Africa and in Latin America and the Caribbean, one of which is established at Fiocruz.

An invitation to Fiocruz

Barbosa stressed the interest in strengthening the partnership between the PAHO and Fiocruz, and complemented Cris/Fiocruz for the dialogs established with other countries. He also stated that one of the goals of his mandate would be to increase representativity at the PAHO, in terms of gender as well as of countries and sub-regions. “I am inviting Cris/Fiocruz to a conversation that goes beyond the courses it offers today, to spill into other initiatives that prioritize currently under-represented countries in Latin America and in the Caribbean, so that, with their experience in travel, participation in events, and field training, these countries can have the conditions to participate and that we have a more equitable organization. This strengthens us by bringing in different voices and needs”, stated Barbosa, emphasizing that his candidacy is a message: it is possible to collaborate even further with the regions. 

Cris/Fiocruz coordinator, Paulo Buss, the mediator of the webinar, classified as “very important” Barbosa’s call for collaboration with Africa and the region. “This call lights up a flame in our souls, hearts and minds, to help build a better world, overcoming the economic, social, political, sanitary and ethical crisis we are going through in the region; it gives us hope to us, as public health agencies, that we can collaborate with these transformations. Health can be called in as a space to build bridges towards peace”, highlighted Buss.

The seminar later proceeded with the presentations of Cris/Fiocruz researchers Guto Galvão and Augusto Paulo Silva on the policies resulting from the 30th Pan-American Sanitary Conference, which took place in Washington last week and Barbosa’s election was announced, and from the WHO-Africa meeting that happened in Lomé, in Togo.

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