The new regional World Health Organization office to be established in Larnaca will help upgrade the level of public health in Cyprus and its surrounding region said Minister of Health Michalis Hadjipantela on Thursday. On his part WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge said Cyprus "is of paramount geopolitical importance, well placed to play a prominent role in health beyond its borders." The office is expected to be ready to begin operating by the beginning of January 2023.
Speaking at the signing ceremony of a joint statement of intent between the Ministry of Health of Cyprus and the European regional office of the World Health Organization for the establishment of a country office in Cyprus, Hadjipantela said that the two sides share a common ambition, to achieve the highest level of welfare, the protection of health and the prevention of disease.
"If we had been asked a few months ago if we could sign this agreement in four months, nobody would have believed it. This shows that our country, our state if we aim high, can achieve anything”
He added that according to the Sustainable Development Goals each person, regardless of socio-economic status or background, can access high-quality, affordable and safe health services, while an important element of these goals is the continuous management of emerging communicable diseases, including the establishment of a resilient health system to monitor, measure and prevent their spread.
“Cyprus, with an established history of excellence in science and research, applies policies that are based on scientific evidence," he noted.
In this framework, the Minister said, the Ministry of Health has carried out "a series of consultations with the WHO Regional Office for Europe to establish a country office in Larnaca,” adding that this initiative aims at strengthening relations between Cyprus and the Organization in the highly important area of health and upgrading the level of public health in Cyprus and its surrounding region.
By adopting today’s document, the Ministry of Health and the WHO Regional Office for Europe commit to collaborating to achieve the successful operation of the office in Larnaca based on common objectives for welfare and health protection, Sustainable Development Goals, the protection of public health and the achievement of healthcare system resilience against future challenges, continued the Minister.
Cyprus’ geographic location is advantageous for hosting a regional office serving as a key reference point for international collaboration in this crucial public health sector, he noted adding that this regional office is expected to contribute to the reinforcements of public health and the upgrading of systems to fight against any emerging diseases which may be communicable and are prone to developing to epidemics by using innovative solutions which target their prevention.
In addition, he said that there will be the collection, dissemination and evaluation of epidemiological data, the development of policies in the field of communicable and zoonotic diseases, the promotion of actions and response mechanisms and the preparation of collaboration tools.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to sign the agreement with the WHO. If we had been asked a few months ago if we could sign this agreement in four months, nobody would have believed it. This shows that our country, our state if we aim high, can achieve anything”, concluded Hadjipantela.
WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, said that today WHO’s Regional Office for Europe and the Ministry of Health of Cyprus are acting on the COVID-19 lesson that we need to be prepared for the unexpected and drastically step up detection, surveillance and preparedness for health policies, adding that we all have learned that health systems operate on a dual track, namely that countries should be able to maintain constant readiness for emergencies but without breaking routine disease prevention control.
“Today we are making our region a safer place, better equipped to face future health threats and deliver the universal healthcare that citizens expect," he noted.
According to Kluge "the fact that Cyprus will host a WHO representative country office in Larnaca is no coincidence."
This southeasternmost country in Europe, he said, "is of paramount geopolitical importance, well placed to play a prominent role in health beyond its borders,” adding that Cyprus’ high level of preparedness and expertise in combatting infectious and zoonotic diseases was on display during the pandemic and more recently through the country’s response to monkeypox, which also is to be commended.
As a member state in the WHO European region and the EU, Cyprus is a hub for migration, a political entry-point for liaising with other regions at the crossroads of the East and the West, said Dr. Kluge and thanked the people of Cyprus for their tremendous solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
He added that the office in Cyprus is the first of a new generation of country offices because it will help Cyprus achieve its public health goals from tackling infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases and in turn, Cyprus’ successes and learnings will help the region and the globe.
“This new office will contribute to the implementation of the WHO European Programme of Work 2020-2025, the WHO triple billion targets and the Sustainable Development Goals," he continued.
"It will advance the public health of Cyprus and contribute to Cyprus becoming a major player in the EU in harnessing health innovations. Soon we will have a dialogue and collaboration platform on public health that benefits both Cyprus, the whole European region and the world,” concluded Dr. Kluge.
On behalf of the city of Larnaca, Mayor Andreas Vyras expressed his pleasure for hosting such an initiative. “Health is everything and in Larnaca, we promise we will do all we can for you to feel at home as we believe this initiative will be beneficial for Cyprus, Europe and the whole world. Health is something we have to work on, it is a sector we have to invest in as much as we can,” he stressed.
He added that it is an honor for Larnaca to host this office and reassured both the Ministry and WHO that the municipality and the citizens of Larnaca will do everything to prove that it was the right choice, while also thanking the Minister for his public health initiatives and his efforts to bring this office to Cyprus.
Asked about a potential operational timeline for the office, Minister said that the aim is for the office to be ready by the beginning of January 2023. The office space will be provided by the municipality of Larnaca based on the understanding with the Mayor, while arrangements will be handled by WHO.
For his part, Dr. Kluge commended the Minister for the operational timeline and said he didn’t see any obstacles, adding that it is very important that expertise in the country is used to the maximum.