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Uniting against COVID-19: PATH at the 75th UN General Assembly

September 15, 2020 by PATH

At the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, world leaders gather virtually to discuss COVID-19 and multilateralism.

Projection of the Sustainable Development Goals on UNHQ in New York.

The United Nations General Assembly, traditionally held in New York, will be virtual for the first time. Photo: Cia Pak/UN Photo (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)*

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is a critical moment for the global community. This year promised to be historic: marking the United Nations’ 75th anniversary by celebrating decades of collective successes and evaluating global progress against the Sustainable Development Goals.

It will still be historic, but for other reasons. Extraordinary circumstances have shaped both the focus and the format of this year’s UNGA. The COVID-19 pandemic will be center stage as country leaders gather virtually discuss the impact on individual lives, on livelihoods, and on public health systems.

The 75th UNGA will be an opportunity to address barriers in the pandemic response, forge stronger partnerships across borders, and keep us on course to improve the lives of all of humanity. It is a moment to reflect on how we have responded to unprecedented challenges.

“The last six months have proven that the world has a common purpose: to find a vaccine against COVID-19. We have seen unprecedented collaboration across nations, scientific collaboration, political collaboration. We have proven that we can break down barriers between us, and that together we can move forward,” said PATH CEO Nikolaj Gilbert in a recent webinar.

As the UNGA session opens and we look to the future, there are three things we cannot forget.

1. Access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines must be equitable.

COVID-19 has demanded a new wave of health innovation. Rapid development for COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines has demonstrated what dedicated global efforts can accomplish. However, we must continue to champion equitable access to these innovations—ensuring that everyone has access to critical commodities like medical oxygen, diagnostic tests, and when they are ready, COVID-19 vaccines. Equity should not be an afterthought—but rather part of the intentional design of our collective efforts.

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2. Multilateralism is essential to health equity.

Achieving equity in global public health requires global action. The World Health Organization and other multilateral institutions have been instrumental in fostering collaboration across countries in pursuit of a healthier world. Growing skepticism around these institutions threatens progress toward health equity and the Sustainable Development Goals—and a multilateral approach cannot be taken for granted. Commitments to collective action and multilateralism is more important than ever.

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3. Essential health services must be protected.

The urgent response to COVID-19 has pulled attention away from long-standing health challenges and improvements to routine health services. These same health services have proven essential in the response to COVID-19, and without them, we risk erasing decades of progress. Primary health care, malaria, HIV, TB, and routine immunizations cannot be forgotten in the pandemic.

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“We have seen unprecedented collaboration across nations, scientific collaboration, political collaboration. We have proven that we can break down barriers between us, and that together we can move forward.”
— Nikolaj Gilbert, PATH CEO


Although we will not be at UNGA in person, PATH is still eager to share and discuss these and many other important topics. Hear more at the events below:

Harnessing digital health transformation in the COVID-19 recovery
Devex Event | September 23, 7:30 a.m. PDT/10:30 a.m. EDT

A panel of experts—including PATH’s Dykki Settle—will explore how digitally-enabled health systems can help improve the quality of health care, as well as what is needed to harness digital transformation in the COVID-19 recovery in ways that support better health for all.

From Data to Insight: Applying Data Science to Global Public Health
Global Digital Health Network webinar | September 24, 7:00 a.m. EDT/10:00 a.m. EDT

The scale up of digital health tools and systems has significantly increased the availability of data and its potential utility to strengthen health systems. However, in many low resource settings, decision makers often lack access to the tools, talent, and resources required to leverage data science approaches. From data capture, data transformation, and data use, health systems could greatly benefit from improved use of data science tools and approaches. This webinar features the work of The Rockefeller Foundation, DataKind, Wadhwani AI, and PATH as examples of how data science can contribute to health system strengthening.

Markets matter: Closing the oxygen access gap
PATH Live Forum | October 1, 7:00 a.m. PDT/10:00 a.m. EDT

Oxygen is essential therapy for COVID-19 patients struggling to breathe, yet shortages in oxygen supply remain a challenge in low-and middle-income countries because of a web of interrelated issues. Why does oxygen supply disruption happen and how do we solve it? This PATH Live Forum will disentangle key challenges impeding access—from demand planning to financing to supply and distribution systems —as well as innovative solutions to solve them for COVID-19 and beyond.

Follow the conversation on social media with #HealthForAll and #UNGA75.

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