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Official speeches and statements - October 8, 2020

Published on October 8, 2020

1. Seventy-fifth United Nations general Assembly - One year commemoration of the high-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC): measuring progress, challenges and opportunities in the context of COVID-19 - Statement by Mr Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, minister of state for tourism, French nationals abroad and Francophonie (by videoconference - October 8, 2020)

Mr. Director-General,
Madam Ambassador,

Exactly a year ago, the UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage was held, resulting in the adoption of a political declaration on the issue. At the time, we had no idea how crucial our commitments to Universal Health Coverage could become in the subsequent months.

The health, social, economic and human consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic remind us that seeking Universal Health Coverage is essential so that we are better prepared to face the newt health crisis.

However, with the emergence of COVID-19, our health systems were, and remain, severely stretched. Even the most advanced countries in terms of Universal Health Coverage have seen their health services under pressure and in some cases at saturation point. We have had to and must continue to fight so that universal access to essential healthcare for patients, whether they have COVID-19 or not, is not undermined.

Personally, I have learnt three major lessons from this crisis for achieving the objective of Universal Health Coverage:

First, healthcare personnel are the cornerstone of our health systems. Without sufficient doctors, nurses and midwives, without a good level of training and equitable distribution of these personnel across the country, I see it everyday in rural areas, and without the right protective equipment, there cannot be universal access to healthcare. We must pay tribute to healthcare personnel around the world, who are working under particularly difficult conditions during this pandemic. France stands alongside WHO, with the creation of its Academy in Lyon, for greater access to training for healthcare personnel and managers;

Second, equitable access to essential healthcare must remain a priority. Even during a pandemic, children must still be immunized, pregnant women must be cared for and sick people must be screened and monitored. It is crucial to maintain services, from prevention to treatment, so that progress achieved in global health in recent decades is not lost.

And third, I want to stress the importance of jointly financing common goods for health, which underpin the basic functions of our health systems, such as monitoring, preparation and R&D. These functions are the first step on the path to Universal Health Coverage. Without them, we cannot hope to achieve effective health coverage.

The health crisis requires us to confirm our commitments to Universal Health Coverage in a new context, in which joint investment in the pillars of the health system and the functions of public health will be crucial. This is the thrust of France and Europe’s partnership with African countries and of France’s work on the ground to tackle the crisis in fragile countries. It is also the thrust of France’s commitment within the ACT-A Initiative which we helped to launch and which aims to make COVID-19 healthcare products available and accessible, including diagnostics, treatments and vaccines, and to specifically support health systems in preparing and deploying these products.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we must learn from this crisis so as not to lose ground but rather to move forward together towards the goal of Universal Health Coverage. Let’s keep up the fight!