The World Health Organization (WHO), in a statement celebrating its 75th anniversary, hosted a significant event last night at the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The event, themed "Together for a Healthier and Safer Future," was held by the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean to appreciate partners and staff.
The aim of this gathering was to reaffirm the shared regional commitment to providing health for all by all. The event highlighted WHO's efforts in promoting primary health care and enhancing universal health coverage to ensure no one is left behind, even in the context of ongoing health emergencies across the region.
This event brought together high-ranking officials representing the host country's government, Egypt; diplomatic corps; other United Nations entities; donor agencies; the WHO Foundation; and non-governmental organizations.
WHO senior officials led by the outgoing Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, and the elected Regional Director, Dr. Hanan Balkhy, welcomed the guests.
In his welcome address, Dr. Al-Mandhari emphasized the vital importance of continuity, solidarity, and unity in achieving health for all: "As we celebrate 75 years of working to promote health, maintain global safety, and serve the vulnerable, we need to continue working together towards a future where the right to health is a given. During my five years as Regional Director for WHO in the Eastern Mediterranean, I have witnessed firsthand the impact of fragile health systems on communities and how quickly life can change. I have also seen the power of functioning health systems to significantly improve people's lives."
The event featured a selection of children's artwork inspired by the significant WHO 75 event from various countries in the region. Guests also viewed a selection of photographs reflecting WHO's fieldwork, especially in emergencies.
A special session on universal health coverage gave guests insights into the 45-year journey of primary health care in the Eastern Mediterranean region. The session was chaired by senior experts from WHO's headquarters and the regional office.
In appreciation of Egypt's generous hosting of the regional office since 1949, a special Gratitude Award from WHO was presented to Egypt, represented by Dr. Mohamed Awad Tag El-Din, the Egyptian President's Health Advisor, and Dr. Amr Kandil, Assistant Minister of Health and Population.
The event also honored all WHO Regional Directors for the Eastern Mediterranean from 1949 to the present for their service in public health. This gesture honored the past and the role played by successful WHO leaders in shaping a healthier and safer future for the region.
The recognized Regional Directors include:
- Dr. Ali Tawfik Shousha (1949-1957)
- Dr. Abdel Hussein Taba (1957-1982)
- Dr. Farouk Barot (Acting Regional Director, 1982)
- Dr. Hussein Gezairy (1982-2012)
- Dr. Ala Alwan (2012-2017)
- Dr. Mahmoud Fikri (2017)
- Dr. Jawad Mahjour (Acting Regional Director, 2017-2018)
- Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari (2018-2024)
In her closing remarks, the elected Regional Director, Dr. Balkhy, stressed the need to protect and make health care more accessible and affordable, even in emergency contexts and for those in hard-to-reach areas.
Dr. Balkhy highlighted the immense capabilities and opportunities in the region, stating, "I am encouraged by many past success examples, the latest being Egypt achieving WHO's gold status on the path to eliminating Hepatitis C. By working together, these achievements can be replicated and expanded throughout the Eastern Mediterranean region, including eradicating polio, neglected tropical diseases, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria."
The event showcased 'Art for Health', a concept created by WHO, focusing on how art can be used as a platform to raise awareness about health issues, promote behaviors supporting better health and well-being, and amplify health messages. Campaigns are planned around the theme 'Health for All. Art for Health.'
This event, marking 75 years of WHO's journey and celebrating the connection between art and health, was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Grand Egyptian Museum, the Legacy Administrative Company, and famous Egyptian musician Maestro Omar Khairat, whose magnificent performance made this a truly unforgettable memory.