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President discusses vaccinations and rights of women and children with head of WHO

President discusses vaccinations and rights of women and children with head of WHO © Office of the President of Estonia


On a working visit to Switzerland, President Kersti Kaljulaid met today in Geneva with World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, with whom she discussed options for mitigating the impact caused by coronavirus and making vaccinations more effective.

“Every country has to battle the virus on its own, but the world will never go back to the way it was before until we have achieved a sufficient level of vaccinations in all countries,” the head of state remarked during the meeting. “The key role in achieving a more uniform level between countries is played by international organisations, first and foremost the World Health Organization. Estonia too has decided to donate doses of vaccine – 800,000 in total – to countries whose vaccination capacity is more modest, including our Eastern Partnership states. Only in this way will we be able to prevent major new hotspots and new strains of the virus from developing.”

President Kaljulaid expressed her support for the plan outlined by the head of the WHO last week, which will boost the organisation’s readiness and responsiveness in future crises and make its work more efficient. “But even more important than the development of the WHO is our ability together, as a global community, to ensure that the majority of people have access to even the simplest of medical and health care services,” the head of state added. “Watching on from Estonia, these problems are often far from us in geographical terms, but it is our joint responsibility to deal with them. We can already see in the ongoing crisis that the successes we have achieved so far are slipping through our fingers and that it is by and large the most vulnerable who are suffering as a result: women, children and young people.”

The head of state also talked with Director-General Ghebreyesus about options for the digitalisation of health care and the willingness of the state and companies in Estonia to share their experience in this field. Other discussion points included Estonia’s priorities as the presiding nation of the UN Security Council this month, which are cybersecurity, Afghanistan and guaranteeing the safety of children in armed conflicts. “The cruelty that children face in the majority of armed conflicts around the world is unimaginable,” she said. “That trauma lingers in the society for generations, and although the world will not become a better place overnight, we have to work towards that each and every day. As the presiding nation on the UN Security Council, we have that opportunity and indeed that obligation.”

President Kaljulaid met in Geneva yesterday with Red Cross President Peter Mauer and World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Today she has further meetings with UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, Deputy High Commissioner of the UN Refugee Agency Kelly T. Clements, Director-​General of the United Nations Office in Geneva Tatiana Valovaya and representatives of a number of global NGOs operating in the humanitarian field and championing the rights and welfare of women and children. From 2019-2021, President Kaljulaid headed up the work of the steering group for the UN’s ‘Every Woman Every Child’ movement with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The protection of children in armed conflicts is also one of Estonia’s five priorities as the presiding nation on the UN Security Council in June.

President Kaljulaid will be returning to Estonia tomorrow.

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