Director-General's Office

G7 Health Ministers

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus's speech during the G7 Health Ministers meeting

Milan, Italy
5 November 2017

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a real honour to be with you today for this very important meeting.

In our increasingly polarised world, it’s encouraging to see countries coming together to find common solutions for common problems.

The issues before you are some of the most pressing of our time.

Here’s the truth. We can only make progress by working together. Isolationism is not an option.

Climate change is a global threat. The spread of antimicrobial resistance knows no borders. And without action to improve the health of women, children and adolescents, we imperil our collective future.

We may not always agree on everything, but for the sake of global health we must work together to find common ground where it can be found.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The human race does not live in a vacuum. We are dependent on our planet for the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe.

Changes to our climate and environment threaten the fundamentals of human existence.

This is not a theoretical danger.

In the United Republic of Tanzania, Massai tribes who rely on crops and livestock are seeing their livelihoods and food security wrecked by rising temperatures, late rainfall and droughts.

In Côte d’Ivoire, malaria and schistosomiasis are increasing due to warmer temperatures and changing rainfall patterns.

Around the world, air, water and soil pollution undermine the health of billions of people, and fan the flames of disease.

Every year, there are 12.6 million preventable deaths from environmental risks including air pollution and lack of access to water and sanitation.

And between 2030 and 2050, climate change is projected to cause about 250,000 additional deaths annually, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

The greatest impact will be felt in the countries that are the least responsible, such as small island developing states.

Let me share with you the first conclusion on a very powerful declaration made at the Vatican City yesterday.

Health be central to policies.

Measures that protect health and the environment should be promoted.

Let me thank the Vatican for their leadership.

At the COP Meeting in Bonn next week, I will be launching a new WHO initiative to support small island developing states in adapting to the health effects of climate change.

We owe it to them to do everything we can to help them prepare for the future that is already washing up on their shores.

But this is a challenge for ALL countries.

That’s why WHO is working with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to develop detailed country profiles to assess risks, and provide tailored advice on how countries can adapt to, and mitigate, the health effects of climate change.

We have already published over 45 of these profiles, and are committed to completing profiles for all small island developing states by the end of next year.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The G7 has been a crucial platform for improvements in the health of women, children and adolescents globally.

Starting with the Muskoka Initiative in 2010, your leadership has contributed to dramatic declines in child and maternal mortality.

This progress has been remarkable, but the journey isn’t over yet.

Every year, 5.6 million children die before their fifth birthday.

Every year, 1.2 million adolescents die.

Every year, there are over 300,000 maternal deaths, most of which are preventable.

These are not just numbers, they’re people.

A girl who misses school because she’s stigmatized during her menstrual period.

A woman who delivers a healthy baby, but dies because of lack of medical supplies to stop her post-partum haemorrhage.

These are unnecessary and unacceptable tragedies. But there are concrete steps we can take to prevent them.

For example, investments to improve the quality of antenatal care would have a triple return – fewer mothers and newborns dying during labour, and fewer stillbirths.

We must ensure that women have access to sexual and reproductive health services so that every woman can decide whether, when and with whom she has a baby.

And we must take action to ensure that women and children can live lives free from violence, such as female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

But we must go further. Ultimately we must address the root cause of all these issues by fighting for gender equality. In large part, the battle for women’s health is a battle for hearts and minds.

For that reason I applaud the Italian presidency for hosting the first ever G7 Ministerial meeting on gender later this month.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Sudden outbreaks of diseases like Ebola and Zika capture headlines, but the spread of antimicrobial resistance is a global health threat that could dwarf both of those emergencies.

This is not a future threat. It’s happening now.

I think of the 18-month-old baby in the USA whose parents took him to hospital with a fever. He became infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and died.

I think of the Australian father of four with a sore throat that turned into a life-threatening infection. He survived, but his arms and legs were amputated.

I think of the Malaysian doctor who had to endure 18 months of painful treatment for multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

Today, people in your countries will be infected with bacteria that have become resistant to medicines. Some will die because we have run out of treatment options.

But we lack good data on the scale of the problem, particularly in developing countries.

That’s why WHO is implementing the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System, or GLASS, to collect information on AMR in humans. Already 47 countries are participating and many more will be joining.

We also urgently need new investment in research and development.

Earlier this year WHO published the Priority Pathogens List, which highlights the 12 groups of bacteria for which investments are needed most urgently, in addition to the priority of addressing drug-resistant tuberculosis.

And the latest edition of the Essential Medicines List includes practical guidelines on which antibiotics should be used to treat common infections, and which should be kept in reserve for the direst circumstances.

Thank you for the attention you have given this issue for the past three years.

This kind of political commitment will be essential for keeping the world’s focus on this issue.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The issues you have before you are ultimately issues of global health security.

And the best way to address them is to invest in health systems that ensure everyone receives the health services they need, when and where they need them, without financial hardship.

That’s what we mean by universal health coverage – health for all.

No one should get sick and die because the air they breathe is polluted.

No woman should die in childbirth because the services needed to save her are too far away.

Nobody should die from common infections and minor medical procedures.

We can’t accept a world like that. And we don’t have to.

You have the ability to affect real progress on all of these issues.

But we must put our money where our mouth is. I ask of you three things:

First, we must triple the annual investment in health adaptation to climate change by 2020, with a focus on mitigation, especially for small island developing states.

Second, we must be the generation that ends preventable deaths of women, children and adolescents, with sustainable investments in the Global Financing Facility and other funding mechanisms.

And third, we must invest in research and development for new antibiotics by supporting the AMR R&D Collaboration Hub.

Thank you for your commitment to working together on these shared challenges.

WHO stands ready to support you with the best evidence, and to turn our commitment and ambition into tangible health gains for people everywhere.

Thank you.