WHO opens new Country Office in Greece
Athens, Copenhagen, 20 June 2018
Today, WHO and the Greek Ministry of Health inaugurated the new WHO Country Office in Greece. WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and the WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab were present for the official ceremony. The opening of the office reflects recent decisions taken by WHO and Greek leaders to strengthen bilateral cooperation, taking stock from past achievements.
Greek government welcomes WHO Country Office
At the annual session of the WHO European Region governing body last year in Budapest, the Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, underlined that “people need a global understanding that protecting human dignity and health is not a privilege or a luxury”. When meeting the WHO Director-General and the Regional Director on that occasion, Prime Minister Tsipras invited them to Greece to officially launch the WHO Country Office and discuss future collaboration.
A few months later, in January 2018, the Basic Agreement between the Greek government and WHO was signed in Geneva. It was ratified by the Greek Parliament at the end of May. Today, the official launch of the office supports the common efforts of WHO and the Greek government towards health for all.
“The establishment of the WHO Country Office in Greece strengthens significantly the country's efforts towards universal health coverage and a sustainable and effective health system. This did not happen by chance – it is the result of a whole-of-government strong political commitment to upgrade our country's cooperation with WHO,” stressed Dr Andreas Xanthos, Minister of Health of Greece. “We will embrace the new WHO office and our partners with the warmth and hospitality that distinguishes our country and its people and we will provide whatever is necessary for the office’s unobstructed operation”.
With, for and in Greece and beyond
The new Athens-based office will provide a platform for daily collaboration with the Greek Ministry of Health and other stakeholders on national health priorities, and will support the country’s move towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Dr Tedros emphasized, “I am delighted to be here to open this new country office, and to work with all our partners in Greece to ensure that everyone here gets the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship".
This collaboration started 4 years ago, when WHO/Europe set up a project office on primary health care and health system strengthening, with financial support from the European Commission.
“Our collaboration with the Greek health authorities during the last few years has been a positive example of regional health policies adapted at national level and acted upon locally. Greece’s law on primary health care has been one of the main effects of this course of action,” stressed Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab. “Standing shoulder to shoulder with the Ministry of Health will bring further results towards improving the well-being of people in Greece. Our common goal is to reduce the major health risks and tackle emerging issues, such as migrant health.”
Not only will this new Country Office provide assistance to Greece with a country presence, it will also support multicountry cooperation programmes, such as migration and health, vector-borne diseases and zoonoses among others, as agreed between WHO and the Greek government.
WHO Country Office in Greece: 149th globally
The new WHO Country Office in Greece is the 149th office worldwide of the Organization and 30th in the WHO European Region. WHO country offices, supported by all levels of the Organization, are the core of WHO’s mechanism for cooperation with and in countries. Their role in advocating for health and in facilitating and coordinating technical assistance to the country is crucial.
Dr Jakab emphasized, “Working on the ground is by far the best way to support national health authorities in their efforts to achieve equitable and affordable health for all. This is aligned with the WHO agenda of ensuring universal health coverage, with countries at the centre. The opening of the WHO Country Office in Greece gives us another unique opportunity to work more closely with the government on the ongoing health reform and put people at the centre of health services”.