The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the vaccination against Ebola virus has started today in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a bid to halt the newest outbreak of the deadly disease.

Speaking at the opening of the World Health Assembly in Geneva Monday (21 May), the Director-General of the World Health Organization Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “it’s concerning that we now have cases of Ebola in an urban center” but adding that “we are much better placed to deal with this outbreak than we were in 2014” when Ebola outbreak took more than 11 000 lives across multiple countries across West Africa.

The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board.

In his opening remarks, the Director-General Ghebreyesus said “the vision set at our founding 70 years ago was not a modest vision. Our Constitution is not a modest document. Our founders did not set out to make modest improvements in health. They envisioned a world in which all people enjoy the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental human right.”

Ghebreyesus, who assumed the governing of the UN health body in July 2017, also said that “many of the countries I have visited, including China, Cuba, Denmark, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom are living proof that universal health coverage is not a pipe dream: it’s a reality for all countries all over the world, at all income levels.”

Also speaking at the opening of the Assembly, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said: “our experience in Rwanda is that an early emphasis on primary health care was one of the most effective strategies for rebuilding trust between citizens and the government in the aftermath of our national tragedy.”

Kagame emphasized that “as it embarks on its 8th decade, the World Health Organization is as essential and central as ever.”

This year’s Health Assembly takes place from 21 to26 May 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.

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