WHO Director-General's opening remarks at press conference, Lebanon - 17 September 2021

Dear colleagues,

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us today.

Al salamu aleykom.

I am very pleased to be here in Lebanon, and very grateful for the opportunity I’ve had over the last two days to understand more about the situation and the challenges that the Lebanese people and government are facing.

Together with Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, the WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean region, and Dr Iman Shankiti, our WHO Representative in Lebanon, we met with senior political leaders, representatives of the international community, and health partners, from both the public and private sectors. We also visited a number of health facilities, both public and private.

I must say I am deeply concerned by the impact of the current crisis on the health and wellbeing of Lebanon’s people, and the risks we face of losing the health gains that Lebanon had made over the last decades.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lebanon’s health workers for their dedication during this very difficult period.

During my visit, we also met their Excellencies the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the President of the Parliament, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

We discussed how best WHO can support Lebanon, and the importance of putting public health at the centre of national political dialogue and development.

We also had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the donor community, to thank them for their support for Lebanon’s health system, and to discuss future priorities.

The international community has provided tremendous support in responding to the refugee crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, the Beirut blast, and the ongoing socioeconomic crisis.

For example, last year’s explosion at Beirut port completely destroyed the Karantina drug warehouse. With the support of the European Union, Kuwait and Japan, WHO has managed not only to rehabilitate the warehouse, but also to increase its capacity by five times.

However, there are still many challenges to overcome.

I would also like to thank Ms Najat Rochdi, the Deputy Special Coordinator, and United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Lebanon for her leadership.

WHO is committed to working closely with our partners both inside and outside the United Nations system to strengthen Lebanon’s health system, make progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, and build a healthier, safer, fairer future for Lebanon’s people.

Thank you once again, merci beaucoup, shukran jazeelan.