Director-General's Office

Launch of WHO-Oman Country Cooperation Strategy 2018-2022

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Director-General of the World Health Organization

Muscat, Oman
10 February 2018

Your Excellency Dr Ahmed Al Saidi, Minister of Health;

Dr Akjemal Magtymova, WHO Representative for Oman;

Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to be here in the Pearl of Arabia.

WHO has a long and successful relationship with Oman.

Oman has been an important ally in the fight against polio.

Your contributions have helped to ensure that polio does not reappear in Syria, and the Central Public Health Laboratory here in Oman provides vital polio reference services for the region.

I am delighted to be here today as we take that relationship to the next level with the launch of the WHO-Oman Country Cooperation Strategy, 2018 to 2022.

Importantly, the strategy has been developed together with the government of Oman.

One of our priorities at WHO is to transform the organization to put countries at the centre of everything we do. That means supporting countries based on their needs.

The new Country Cooperation Strategy does exactly that. It spells out how we will work together to improve health in Oman in five strategic areas:

  • Communicable diseases, especially TB and malaria;
  • Noncommunicable diseases, mental health, substance abuse and disabilities;
  • Building on the achievements from the Millennium Development Goals by ensuring care throughout the life course, and by addressing the social determinants of health;
  • Strengthening the health system towards achieving universal health coverage;
  • And strengthening your national capacity to prevent, detect and respond to health emergencies.

These strategic priorities fit perfectly with the global priorities in WHO’s new General Programme of Work, which was endorsed last month by our Executive Board.

The General Programme of Work is our new 5-year strategic plan. Its centerpiece is what we call the “triple billion” target: by 2023, we want to see 1 billion more people benefitting from universal health coverage, 1 billion more people better protected from health emergencies, and 1 billion more people enjoying better health and well-being.

These are ambitious targets. But they must be. We cannot achieve the Sustainable Development Goals unless we dream big and aim high.

Our vision is based on the same conviction we have had since WHO was founded 70 years ago: that health is a human right for all, not a privilege for some.

This Country Cooperation Strategy will be one small but important piece in making that global vision a reality.

And here in Oman, you have a proud story to tell.

Almost all people have access to services that are close to free at the point of delivery.

Immunization coverage and births attended by a skilled health worker are almost 100%.

You have achieved great progress on reducing child mortality and improving the health of mothers.

Of course, no country has a perfect health system. There is always room for improvement.

As your population gets older, you will face an increasing burden of noncommunicable diseases that will put new demands on your health system.

I’m very much looking forward to participating in tomorrow’s launch of Oman’s National Action Plan on NCDs. It shows that you are taking this threat very seriously. We need countries like Oman to show leadership and take bold action if we are to make progress against NCDs.

I would especially like to commend Oman for the recent increases in tobacco taxation. This is a powerful tool both for reducing the use of tobacco, and as a way to raise revenues that can be and should be reinvested in health.

But even as you expand the range of services, it will be important to improve the cost efficiency and quality of services, and to ensure you have the right people with the right skills in the right places.

The growth of private health providers can be an important complement to the public system, but you must take care that the public system does not suffer as a result.

And you will need to ensure you invest adequate resources in the system, not only in providing care, but also in health promotion and disease prevention.

None of this is a job for the health ministry alone. It will be vital that you work with partners from energy, finance, agriculture, trade, housing and many other sectors to address the social determinants of health.

This is especially true for issues such as antimicrobial resistance.

Earlier this month, WHO launched the first report from our new Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System (known as GLASS). The findings are alarming.

In some countries, up to 82% of bacterial infections are resistant to at least one of the most commonly-used antibiotics.

Addressing this threat requires close cooperation between the health, food and agriculture sectors.

The fact that ministers and officials from outside the health sector are here shows that you understand this.

And I am very pleased that Oman has been enrolled in GLASS since 2016, and that you have approved a National Policy and Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The strategy we are launching today is an important step. Together, we must ensure that this document translates into concrete improvements in health for all people in Oman.

It is them we are serving; and it is they who will hold us accountable.

Congratulations for your hard work so far. We look forward to working with you very closely in the days and months and years ahead.

Thank you so much. Shukraan jazeelan.