HRH the Crown Prince and Prime Minister delivers speech at the WHO’s World Health Assembly Special Session

His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, today delivered a speech at the World Health Organization’s (WHO) World Health Assembly (WHA) Special Session.

His Royal Highness’s speech outlined the importance of further bolstering international cooperation on pandemic preparedness and response when facing global health challenges.

His Royal Highness delivered the following address:

Your Excellency Madame President, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates

On behalf of His Majesty the King of Bahrain and the people of Bahrain, thank you for having me speak to you this morning.

As a global community, we have for decades ignored the urgent calls of public health experts, who time and again warned us of the fault lines in the global health order and the glaring health disparities between and within nations. Today, as we mourn the loss of over five million fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters, and as we begin the difficult task of rebuilding the lives of those who survived this devastating pandemic, we must finally be prepared to listen [pause] and to act.

The coronavirus exposed the world’s lack of preparedness and exploited the links that bind us. Without a global plan of action, countries around the world turned inwards and, as a result, we witnessed the breakdown of early detection and alert systems, the absence of standardized containment protocols, the proliferation of misinformation, and a spate of market shocks and supply chain disruptions, which still leave many without ready access to essential goods, diagnostic tools, treatments, and vaccines.

It is imperative that we do not lull ourselves into complacency with the false belief that this pandemic is a once-in-a-century anomaly. Instead, we must seize upon this opportunity to enact real change; to approach global pandemic preparedness with the same determination we bring to geo-political threats to our collective safety and security. Only then will we be able to build a global health system that can one day serve as our first and most effective line of defense against the emergence of communicable diseases.

The Kingdom of Bahrain recognized, as the coronavirus was just beginning to gather steam and before it reached our shores, that preparedness and collaboration would determine our ability to successfully navigate a crisis of this magnitude.

A full month before registering our first case, we established a war room that would serve as the nerve center of the country’s containment efforts, marshalling resources and people from military and civilian agencies to coordinate a whole-of-country response.

Bahrain adopted a policy of radical transparency, which fostered a sense of public trust and collective responsibility. Community leaders, medical practitioners, policymakers, citizens, and residents all came together to form one team that united around a firm sense of shared purpose. This spirit of unity permeated every corner of society. For example, over 50,000 citizens, in a country of just 1.5 million people, offered their services as volunteers in many different fields.

Armed with this team spirit, we were able to increase bed capacity by a factor of six, secure alternative housing for people living in crowded accommodations, and equip hospitals with enough PPE, ventilators, and medicine.

As a result of these efforts, Bahrain has one of the highest recovery rates in the world as well as a vaccination coverage of 93% of eligible population of which approximately 50% have been boosted to date. But physical health was not our only priority: economic and mental health featured prominently in our response. With community buy-in and a world-leading ‘test, trace, and treat’ system, we were able to avoid the brunt of the crisis without ever having to institute a national-level lockdown.

Bahrain’s efforts, however effective as a national-level response, are no substitute for a global public health system capable of stopping a pathogen in its tracks. But our experience is instructive insofar as it testifies to the life-and-death importance of preparedness and early intervention, and demonstrates the value of transparency, collaboration, and an enduring commitment to data-driven science-led policy making. We believe these same principles should guide our discussions here today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The coronavirus has beset the world with many challenges. None, however, are insurmountable if we are willing to work together. Over the last two years, we have witnessed scientists from across the world leapfrog years of research to develop highly effective vaccines in record time. And while the pandemic is full of similar moonshot moments, we have to ensure equal and ready access to these game-changing innovations, particularly in the context of new emerging variants. In fact, vaccine coverage, which stands at over 40 percent globally, falls to under three percent in some countries. And with around one billion idle doses in others, millions of avoidable deaths are likely to occur. We can solve this challenge and others if only we muster the political will to once again look outwards.

It is our hope that the nations of the world will join forces and heed the lessons of this crisis in pursuit of a united front that serves the moral imperative of protecting present and future generations from the scourge of pandemics.

The World Health Organization is holding the World Health Assembly Special Summit from 29 November to 1 December 2021 to discuss mechanisms for strengthening joint efforts and developing the global measures necessary to confront and prevent epidemiological challenges.

Source: Bahrain News Agency