- The Permanent Mission
- Greece in the UN-Geneva
World Health Organizaton 138th Executive Board
In the 138th Executive Board (EB) Greece was represented by the Secretary General of Public Health, Mr. Ioannis Baskozos .He delivered a statement at the item “Promoting the health of migrants” on Thursday, 28 January 2016 and noted that the problem of migration is a global one and not just a European challenge. He praised the efforts of the World Health Organization to prepare a framework with the basic points of immigration crisis regarding public health, while underlining the excellent collaboration between WHO and IOM. As far as Greece is concerned, Mr Bazkozos informed that the Greek Ministry of Health tries to meet the health needs of refugees with funds made available through the national public health system. Health coverage, he explained, will be provided in the hot spots for refugees/migrants operating within the framework of the Greek National Action Plan for health issues.
The Secretary General of Public Health also delivered a statement on the item “Viral Hepatitis 2016-2020” and noted that Greece welcomes the strategic directions outlined in WHO’s draft global health sector strategy and recognize the role that harm reduction plays in preventing not just hepatitis, but also HIV. In this regard he pointed out that the Greek Ministry of Health is eager to develop a national plan for viral hepatitis, that also can integrate HIV, and STIs.
On 28 January 2016, in the margins of the 138th EB , the Secretary-General of Public Health, Mr. Ioannis Baskozos accompanied by the Permanent Representative, Ambassador Alexandris, met with:
• the Director General of the WHO Dr. Margaret Chan and discussed the need for action by the WHO and by the Member States at the global problem of migration. They also referred to the intention of Greece to organize, together with other interested partners, a side event on the migration and the numerous public health challenges posed by large-scale movements of refugees and migrants to transit countries during the upcoming 69th World Health Assembly
• the Deputy Director General of the IOM Mrs Laura Thompson and discussed the details of the health issues on the relocation program of refugees and migrants which is undertaken by the IOM. It was agreed the collaboration with the IOM at the creation of a personal travel health report for the refugees.
WHO Executive Board: 138th session
Agenda Item 9.2 Draft global health sector strategy on viral hepatitis, 2016-2021
Statement by the Secretary General of Public Health of the Greek Ministry of Health, Mr. Ioannis Baskozos
We thank the WHO Secretariat for their leadership in what can be a critical milestone in the global response to HIV, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections.
In line with the WHO’s strategy on viral hepatitis, we in Greece are committed in ending viral hepatitis in our country. This is no small feat for a country that has been experiencing an economic and humanitarian crisis over the past six years. As documented, austerity measures have served to undermine and damage our healthcare system, and have had an adverse impact on the health of the Greek population.
We recognize the barriers in the implementation of a national hepatitis plan. We recognize the challenges in financing, which are particular relevant for a country like Greece today.
However, the Greek Government also recognizes the untapped potential to work in concert with its European Union partners and global actors, especially WHO, to advance the response against viral hepatitis. We LOOK to countries such as GEORGIA who have embarked on a national hepatitis C elimination programme, and we applaud Georgie’s efforts, and its political will. As far as EGYPT is concerned we note the efforts and applaude. We want to learn from your experience in developing a plan of action that addresses both prevention and treatment of viral hepatitis.
We welcome the five core intervention areas and strategic directions outlined in WHO’s draft global health sector strategy, and we aim to take CONCRETE steps in order to ensure that these elements are effectively covered in our national hepatitis plan. Importantly, we recognize the role that HARM REDUCTION plays in preventing not just hepatitis, but also HIV. In 2011, Athens experienced an HIV outbreak in people who inject drugs (PWIDs). In partnership with colleagues at the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and others, we developed an intervention called the Aristotle programme, where we rapidly identified HIV-positive people among those injecting drugs, linking them to care, strengthening needle exchange, and promoting safer injecting practices. The Aristotle programme resulted in a significant decrease in HIV incidents, and serves as a lesson on action and cooperation amongst partners when faced with an infectious disease outbreak.
On the hepatitis front, what can we do? We know we have a cure for hepatitis C, which currently comes at a cost that Greece cannot afford to expend at the moment if it wants to scale up treatment access. We have much space for constructive discussion around access to the latest generation of effective antiviral drugs. Even more importantly we have the political will on the part of the Greek state. We now have to ensure input by civil society, public support, and technical and programmatic expertise to develop this plan.
In Greece, the Ministry of Health will lead efforts in implementing the national hepatitis plan.Is also committed in conducting a baseline assessment and cost-benefit analysis for such a plan. We value strategic information, the power of data, and we intend to inform our planning by utilizing a comprehensive electronic registry of people living with hepatitis C that was recently developed. Lastly, our government will establish a Price Negotiating Committee which will serve as the critical mechanism to ensure lower prices for innovative medicines and make sure those that need treatment have access.
Last but not least, in order to achieve its goals, the Greek Ministry of Health is keen to establish a strong working relationship and cooperation with WHO and its partners in our efforts to develop a national plan for viral hepatitis, that also seeks to address how we can integrate HIV, and STIs. The Greek Ministry of Health is proud to be amongst those who endorse the draft strategy on viral hepatitis, which we consider your efforts to be an important step forward in the hepatitis response battle against this condition.
WHO 138th EXECUTIVE BOARD
Agenda item 8.7: Promoting the health of migrants
Statement by the Secretary General of Public Health of the Greek Ministry of Health, Mr. Ioannis Baskozos
Refugees and migrants arriving in Greece and Europe literally struggle with the waves! The suffering of these people on such a massive scale cannot be ignored. The strengthening of Public Health Systems and the synergy between the involved member-states (m-s) must be a priority.
We must ensure the necessary political entente and joint action, in front of the tragedy that unfolds daily in the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the land routes to Central Europe. Additionally, we should not forget that today other countries in the region and the African continent are under immense pressure from refugee and migration flows. An immediate and effective plan is all countries’ responsibility.
We would like to mention that in 2015, 856,723 refugees and migrants arrived in Greece through the sea route in the Eastern Aegean, while the arrivals for 2016, so far exceed 43,920 (46,121 is the total number of arrivals by the sea, for Greece and Italy). The average arrivals in Greece, in December 2015, was 3,500 and in January 2016 was 1,900, despite the adverse weather conditions. The number of people that have been lost or ignored since the beginning of the year exceeds 70.
Greece is the country that receives 95% of refugees and migrants who wish to reach Europe. 70% of these desperate people are refugees (43% of Syria), 34% are children and 21% are women. The social and epidemiological profile of these populations has been modified recently and basically includes families, infants, young children, pregnant women and elderly people. It is a common assumption that refugees and immigrants are not a risk for infectious diseases. However, they need emergency health care due to the circumstances in which they travel and live during their displacement. We have to also take into account their health profile in cases such as chronic diseases.
The continuing refugee crisis requires the solidarity and collaboration with the countries, which are under the greatest pressure, taking into account the long term impact of migration on health systems and the balance of rights and obligations between the countries of transit and the host countries. An immediate and effective plan is our responsibility. We should be enable the mechanism of cross-border exchanges and cooperate, in order to find the best solution for health issues that arise and also for the integration of refugees into society. This will bring wider benefits to the socioeconomic development of the Member States.
The high-level meeting on the issue, in Rome and the conclusions of this meeting stand as a reference point for both the member states of the European region and for the other states, members of WHO. The core of the conclusions is
• the need for cooperation and solidarity,
• the need to develop protocols on prevention and health promotion for refugees and migrants
• the need of an appropriate mechanism for exchanging data between the transit country and host countries, with respect to human rights and cultural characteristics of these people.
The problem of migration is global, not just Europe's problem. We support the WHO effort to define the basics points of immigration crisis regarding public health. The inclusion of the issue on the agenda of the 138th Executive Board Session, and the collaboration between WHO and IOM allows for a valid and reliable assessment of the experience of countries involved in this unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
Our country and our government proceeded from the logic of repression to the logic of reception and universal access to health services (health promotion, disease prevention and clinical care). In 2015, about 2,000 refugees and migrants have received hospital care with cost exceeding 800,000 euros. Touching is the offer and solidarity of the local population, health personnel, NGOs, that has led to a satisfactory confrontation of the issue.
There has been provision for sufficiency in medicines and medical supplies (eg vaccine, tuberculin etc.) and coverage for refugees with chronic non-communicable diseases (eg diabetes). We also provide immunization coverage of vulnerable groups, in accordance with basic screening immunization protocol.
We have started the implementation of our commitment to create fully functional hot spots and the Ministry of Health will soon roll out a National Action Plan for health coverage of the spots, taking into account both the experience and the scientific training of experts. Our aim obviously is not to solve the problem that constantly grows, but to improve the conditions in which the refugees live.
In the health sector, as in all other sectors of the refugee issue, the fundamental human values are challenged. This challenge will either lead us to the direction of humanism, solidarity and cooperation or the mentality of closed borders and xenophobia will prevail. For us it is obvious which path to take.