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Statement by President Higgins following meeting with WHO Director General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus

Date: Mon 18th Dec, 2023 | 16:42

Uachtarán na hÉireann, President Michael D. Higgins, today met with the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, at Áras an Uachtaráin. Also in attendance were WHO Executive Director for Emergencies Dr Mike Ryan and WHO Technical Officer Dr Cindi Lewis.

In a statement following the meeting, President Higgins said:

“It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of the contribution Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus and his team are making to humanity, and how it is giving all of us hope in what are the most horrific of times in terms of loss of civilian life. That work deserves our unreserved support.

At our meeting today, Dr Ghebreyesus and Dr Ryan shared with me the appalling situation on the ground in Gaza and the vital need for greatly increased medical supplies to be provided to those suffering.

Every day that continues without a ceasefire is an assent to the death of civilians, such a large proportion of whom are children. We hear too of mothers giving birth in the most impossible of situations. It is important that the world turns its eyes to Gaza, these are happenings from which it cannot avert its gaze.

In this context, we noted at our meeting the important role which is being played by the Taoiseach and the Irish Government in working to try to bring an immediate end to this loss of life.

We further discussed the situation in the far too many fragile, conflict affected and vulnerable settings (FCVs) across the world which are facing the convergence of so many interrelated risks and threats, each of which are exacerbated by climate change, hunger, forced migration, disease and displacement.

In too many places across the world, as Dr Ryan has highlighted, we are seeing the long-established principles of international law being not only abandoned, but actively subverted, including the use of gender based and sexual violence. It is vital that the international multilateral institutions take action to tackle this deeply disturbing trend.

We discussed the debate that surrounds a multilateral based Pandemic Agreement and the need for openness to change. We must also ensure that our multilateral institutions work to learn from the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, and ensure that there are no blocks to those most in need receiving access to the necessary medical and healthcare technology.

It is therefore very important that all of us engage in the debate on the underlying principles which are required in order to deal with future pandemics, including in discussions around a draft treaty on pandemic preparedness, such as that being proposed by the WHO.”