WHO - World Health Organization

06/09/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/09/2021 07:41

WHO Director-General's introductory and closing remarks at the First Meeting of the High-Level Coalition on Health and Energy

[Introductory remarks]

Excellencies, distinguished coalition members, dear colleagues and friends,

I am delighted to open today's meeting. I am grateful to all you for accepting my invitation to be part of the High-Level Coalition on Health and Energy.

Today and every day, people around the world will lose their lives because of a lack of electricity in health care facilities, or as a result of breathing polluting air due to dirty fuels used in cooking.

We're here because we can't accept a world like that.

We have the responsibility to change it, and I am convinced that this Coalition can play a key role in driving action towards this urgent goal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated just how important energy is for health, from maintaining cold chain for vaccines to operating oxygen concentrators and ventilators, and much more.

Of course, access to electricity plays a crucial role for nearly all health services. It is needed to power vital medical devices and diagnostic, surgical, and laboratory equipment.

Without electricity, there is no reliable lighting, cooling, clean water, ventilation and communications.

But around the world, an estimated one billion people rely on health facilities without any electricity access.

In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, one in four healthcare facilities lacks access to electricity.

And even when electricity is available, the power supply is often unreliable.

While most large hospitals have access to electricity, access rates drop dramatically for clinics in remote and rural areas. This can mean the difference between life and death.

The lack of access to electricity in homes also has significant health impacts.

Cooking over polluting stoves and fuel combinations like traditional biomass, coal or kerosene stoves is a major source of air pollution affecting an estimated 3 billion people.

Each year, exposure to household air pollution kills some 4 million people through heart disease, strokes, cancer and pneumonia.

The use of traditional biomass for cooking also contributes to approximately 2 percent of global CO2 emissions.

Fuel gathering increases the risk of injury, consumes considerable time for women and children, limits other productive activities such as income generation, and takes children away from school.

In less secure environments, women and children are at risk of injury and violence during fuel gathering.

Solutions are in reach.

Decentralised renewable energy solutions represent a key opportunity to rapidly provide clean, reliable and cost-effective electricity to health centres.

The improvement in technology and dramatic reduction in price of solar panels make them a practical and quickly deployable solution, including for clinics in remote and rural areas.

The tasks for the Coalition on Health and Energy are ambitious and far-reaching: to strengthen high-level cooperation between the health and energy sectors; increase political momentum; spur investment; mobilize public support; and drive practical solutions.

In preparation for this meeting, WHO team has shared with you the draft of a Strategic Roadmap on Health and Energy, which identifies priority actions. These include:

First, dramatically increasing public and private investments in electrifying healthcare facilities and in clean cooking;

Second, providing the necessary human and financial resources to design and implement clean energy plans and sustainable delivery models tailored to the needs of the health sector and households;

And third, develop tailored policy and financing schemes, to unlock the potential of clean and sustainable energy solutions and to address health sector needs.

Accomplishing these requires building bridges between the energy and health sectors, and facilitating collaboration between private, public, and non-governmental actors.

We have received very positive feedback on the draft Roadmap from many of you so far, and I hope that today we can come together to finalize the document and endorse it.

I am convinced that this would send a strong message to national Governments, development partners, key stakeholders and the global community about the need to change pace, and would represent a powerful call to action for all stakeholders.

Thank you once again for your commitment, support and participation today, and I look forward to our discussion.

I thank you.


[Concluding message]

I would like to thank you once again for your time and dedication.

I look forward to working with you all and with our partners to improve the health of the world's poorest through access to clean and sustainable energy.

We need your energy. Lives depend upon it.