Address by President Danny Faure on the Occasion of Official Opening of the Sixth Meeting of African Ministers of Health of Small Island Developing States
Regional Director of WHO AFRO
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to be here with you, at the opening ceremony of the 6th Conference of Ministers of Health of Small Island Developing States of the African Region of WHO.
To those of you that have crossed oceans to be here, “Welcome to Seychelles! Feel at home!”
I am especially delighted that today we are beginning the second round of these ministerial conferences. This second round, like the first, is starting here in Seychelles and it comes exactly eleven years after the first meeting was held here in 2006.
Let me begin by thanking the World Health Organization for creating and sustaining the environment that enables all this to happen. Thank you, Madam Regional Director. Thank you for the technical leadership of WHO in this extraordinary effort. Let’s congratulate ourselves for the great journey we have undertaken so far as we look ahead to the next decade.
Throughout the past eleven years, amid international political and economic turbulence, amid mounting evidence of further climate change and the devastating effects of global warming and sea-level rise, and amid real national challenges in health, our five sister islands have kept the promise of trying to think together and work together as one.
We have kept this great collaboration healthy and alive. In the process, we have come much closer together - as states, as peoples, as cultures, and as front-runners in health accomplishments on our continent. Individually and collectively, we are rewriting the playbook of national political commitment for health and of multilateral collaboration in health.
We should be proud of what we have done together, but we must put even greater individual and collective effort - to keep pushing, to reach the next milestone, and the next and the next. There is a lot more important work for us to do together.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, definitions of Small Island Developing States never fail to emphasize that we are all maritime countries and that we share similar development challenges.
After marvelling at our stunning oceans and landscapes, it is much later that our admirers pause to consider our limited economic resources, our remoteness, our susceptibility to natural disasters, our vulnerability to external shocks, and our excessive dependence on international trade.
The reality of small island developing states is, also, that our growth and development are held back by the high costs of communication, energy and transportation. We also have to endure irregular international transport volumes, disproportionately expensive public administration and infrastructure due to our small size, and little to no opportunity to create economies of scale. These are all text book portrayals of small island states.
To hear these characterizations and the difficulties of overcoming them, it is almost as if small island states are doomed to fail from the start.
However, from small islands come big ideas. No one should underestimate our resolve. Failure, for us, has never been and never will be an option. Despite real challenges, there is an abundance of energy and innovation inside of us all, to push ourselves and our nations as far we can go.
Distinguished guests, Seychelles has made remarkable progress in health. We invest heavily in the health sector because that investment is a natural extension of our people-centered development model – a model that has sought to achieve the holistic development of all our citizens.
Over forty years, our sustained efforts have been to improve access, not just to high quality health care but also to decent housing, a clean environment, safe water, good education, employment prospects, and solid socio-economic infrastructure. We invested consciously to improve all the known social determinants of health. The results speak for themselves. Seychelles is now classified as a high income country. We have achieved universal health coverage. Life expectancy has soared.
But with development comes new health and social challenges. Unhealthy nutrition, sedentary lifestyles and substance abuse are all taking a toll on our population.
Though our challenges are enormous, our New National Health Strategic plan, part of which is the National Strategy Against The Non-Communicable Diseases, provides a robust blueprint for Seychelles to address, in a very decisive way, the personal and collective lifestyles and behaviours associated with ill-health that now plague us.
The alarmingly high prevalence of obesity and diabetes, even among our younger population, and the high rates of cancer, call for decisive measures. My government is seriously considering all measures at our disposal to try and arrest the increase of these conditions.
Alongside these efforts are also our efforts to address the emerging and re-emerging communicable diseases. We focus on their risk factors. We work to build personal and collective resilience. We work to strengthen all the pillars of the health system.
We are doing this at a time that health spending on prevention is increasing significantly and there is a growing recognition in our population that their health is first and foremost their own responsibility to protect and promote. We have campaigned relentlessly to bring home that important message, and we are now seeing the results. As I mentioned before, ultimately, all our work is about creating an environment which leads to an improvement in the lives of all our people.
This SIDS Health Ministers Conference is about hearing and learning what each one of us does best. We have a lot to learn from each other. Generating greater understanding and innovating together helps us advance all of our countries at the same time. During the next three days we will learn about the incredible success stories and challenges of the Comoros, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, Mauritius and Madagascar.
Honourable Ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Seychelles is proud and honoured to be hosting you this week. Despite your busy programme, make the time to discover our people and our culture, to experience what we share and also what sets us apart. Find some time to experience our differences and similarities. Enjoy your stay in Seychelles.
It is now my pleasure to declare the Sixth Conference of Small Island States of the WHO Region of Africa, officially open.
Thank you.» All speeches