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Secretary Marcus Samo Represents Health Ministers from Pacific Island Countries at 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva
PALIKIR, Pohnpei—From May 18th to May 30th, 2022, the Honorable Marcus Samo, Secretary of the Department of Health & Social Affairs, will be in Geneva, Switzerland, representing the Health Ministers from Pacific Island Countries at the 75th World Health Assembly. On May 23rd, 2022, Secretary Samo provided his formal remarks which may be found here: https://gov.fm/files/PIC_Statement_at_WHA75_FSM05222022_Final.pdf
Citizens may recall that in late 2021 the FSM was confirmed to become a member of the World Health Organization’s Executive Board, representing the Asia-Pacific region. The Nation’s membership will last for three years i.e. from 2022 through to 2025. As a member of the Board, the FSM assists in implementing the decisions and policies of the World Health Assembly. Replacing the Kingdom of Tonga, the FSM joins Japan, China, South Korea, and Malaysia as representatives on the 34-member Board from the Western Pacific Region. The World Health Assembly, which is the main governing body of the World Health Organization, is held annually, and brings together Ministers of Health, Directors General of Health, and experts in the health sector.
While arguably the FSM has earned its place on the Executive Board through its leadership in the health sector, the FSM National Government remains highly cognizant that the Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji, the Honorable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, and the People of Fiji, withdrew their candidacy in support of the FSM. “This is a gesture of goodwill that we will not forget,” His Excellency David W. Panuelo, President of the FSM, said in October 2021, which is repeated again here so as to emphasize the FSM’s continued recognition and appreciation of this gesture of goodwill.
The FSM’s attendance at the 75th World Health Assembly, which was unable to offer a virtual means of engagement, emphasizes the Nation’s commitment to international cooperation in the health sector. Secretary Samo, whose statement at the Opening Plenary Session on May 23rd, 2022, represented all Pacific Island Countries, was also the first speaker of the day, marking the first time a Western Pacific Regional speaker was afforded this opportunity and accorded this status.
Emphasizing this year’s theme of “Health for Peace; Peace for Health”, Secretary Samo reminded attendees of the Pacific Island Leaders’ Healthy Island Vision created approximately a quarter of a century ago, where “Children are nurtured in body and mind; environments invite learning and leisure; people work and age with dignity; ecological balance is a source of pride; and the ocean which sustains us is protected.”
“Can we truly say we are at peace when some countries, particularly the small island states, continue to sink beneath the rising waves?” Secretary Samo said. “Can we say we are at peace when we continue to pollute our oceans and poison the fish and marine life that are vital for our economic and food security today, and into the future, and holds one of the keys for ending both poverty and hunger? Is a parent at peace when her child is ill but cannot access the treatment so easily available to others? Is a breadwinner at peace when he cannot even make the one-dollar-a-day to provide for the life of his family?”
Assuring the fellow members of the World Health Assembly that the Pacific “will continue to work alongside our fellow Member States as we strive towards a fairer, healthier, and more peaceful world,” the Secretary concluded by extending to all peoples that which the FSM seeks: peace, friendship, cooperation, and love in our common humanity.
The following day, Secretary Samo attended an event co-hosted by the Governments of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States of America, entitled “From Local to Global: Promoting Vaccine Confidence and Fighting the Infodemic.” The event’s purpose was to allow for the sharing of best practices on how governments can build confidence in vaccines (both for COVID-19 and others), and raise awareness for coordinated national, regional, and global action on instituting effective vaccination programming.
Additional engagements, including those on the margins of the World Health Assembly, are inclusive of the FSM delegation conducting consultations and discussions with other member countries, as well as philanthropic organizations such as the Sasakawa Foundation.
Secretary Samo is accompanied by Carter Apaisam, Immunization Program Manager at the Department of Health & Social Affairs, and Jeem Lippwe, Charge’d’Affaires from the FSM Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.