1996 News Story

Minister of Health speaks at WHO General Assemby

Minister of Health Dr. Osama Shobokshi today in Geneva addressed the 49th session of the General Assembly of the World Health Organization, and praised the Director-General’s report spotlighting WHO’s efforts in the fight against common ailments and in particular infectious diseases, which must be checked at national, regional and international levels in order to avoid complicated health crises.   Dr. Shobokshi cited the success realized by the international community to eliminate smallpox, and expressed the hope that similar progress would be made with other diseases.

Dr. Shobokshi suggested that greater attention be paid to providing exchange of information on certain infectious and epidemic diseases which have made a reappearance, as well as to enhancing emergency health and epidemic facilities, upgrading campaigns for public awareness of health problems, intensifying technical cooperation, and sharing data and experience among all member countries.   Briefing the general assembly on Saudi Arabia’s positive response to WHO’s plans and programs, and expressing pride that the Kingdom was one of the first countries to introduce and promote the understanding of primary health care under the umbrella of “health for all”, he said that this advanced service now covers almost 80 percent of the Kingdom’s population, and that Saudi Arabia has also developed national and social programs for combating rare diseases as well as for maternity and child welfare for both rural and urban areas nationwide.

Dr. Shobokshi said that the Government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz will leave no stone unturned to combat infectious diseases, and reported that the program adopted by the Ministry for immunization of children against nine diseases, including hepatitis, has led to a remarkable decline in these diseases in recent years, with 90 percent of all children immunized.   One fruitful outcome of the current cooperation in health affairs between the Kingdom and the other states of the Gulf Cooperation Council is that the region will soon be declared free of polio.

Dr. Shobokshi also referred to the brilliant success accomplished by the Kingdom in the seasonal gathering of the Hajj pilgrimage when more than two million people come together in one place, as evidence of the success of the Saudi health authorities in emergency situations.

The Saudi Health Minister further suggested that WHO intensify its dedicated efforts in its leading role as a specialized health organization by developing a comprehensive strategy for combating those infectious diseases which had made a reappearance, by overseeing the development of international health regulations, reinforcing cooperation among member states, and supporting all countries in their efforts to strengthen their national health cadres and institutions.

Meanwhile, Dr. Shobokshi chaired a meeting of the GCC health ministers which was held on the sidelines of the general assembly session, and reported that they reviewed proposals for the protection of GCC citizens from epidemics carried by expatriates working in the region as well as discussing ways to set up coordinating machinery to oversee cooperation between GCC members in matters of organ donation and transplant.   In addition, the GCC health ministers have agreed, starting from next year, to present to the WHO meetings a unified address.