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11-04-2024 10:38

Opening Statement by the Minister of Health, Mr Michael Damianos, at the 10th Ministerial Meeting of the Small Country Initiative – WHO, Euro region

Distinguished Regional General,

Distinguished European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety,

Distinguished Health Ministers,

Esteemed delegates and honourable guests,

It is a great honour for me to extend my warmest welcome to each one of you to this pivotal gathering, hosted by the Republic of Cyprus in partnership with the World Health Organisation. Today, we come together not only as representatives of our respective countries, but also as drivers of a shared vision, that of ensuring health equity and prosperity for all, regardless of the size of our nations.

On behalf of the Republic of Cyprus, I would like to congratulate the Regional Director Hans Kluge for the Small Country Initiative and for the ground covered under his leadership with respect to our aim, that of securing the highest standard of health as a fundamental right and continuing to improve health in the region.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic challenged the resilience of health systems and negatively affected economic growth and social coherence across the world. An important lesson learnt was that small countries are more vulnerable, since they lack the negotiating power to secure the necessary resources needed to weather the crisis. Cyprus was fortunate enough to belong to the European Union (EU) family that allowed it to access the necessary vaccines and do well during the pandemic. I express our sincerest gratitude to the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides for this.

During the last four years, the pandemic prevailed over other interests and has put aside all other health matters. The effects of this are becoming more and more evident, especially in smaller countries.

Fellow Ministers, we have good health systems, but we lack the resources to tackle rare cases and in the face of big problems we seem to be too small. Yet, it is precisely in moments like these that we come together to find inspiration, innovation and strength.

As mentioned in my invitation letter, an American author, Helen Keller, wrote that “alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much”. This meeting serves as a platform for us to exchange knowledge, share best practices and form collaborations that will propel us forward in our mission. It is a place where ideas will be born, partnerships will be formed and strategies will be refined. Each one of you brings a unique perspective and expertise on the table, and it is through our collective wisdom that we will find solutions for the challenges that we face in the realm of public health, which are vast and complex.

Dear delegates, as we convene in this forum, we are partners in a noble cause. As we convene under the banner of the Small Country Initiative, we recognise the unique challenges and opportunities faced by nations with smaller populations and more limited resources. Yet, we acknowledge the immense potential and resilience inherent in our communities. Today, we unite to harness that potential, to amplify our voices and to advocate for the health and well-being of our people.

As we embark on this joint journey, let us be guided by the principles of inclusivity, equity, collaboration, solidarity and sustainability. Let us remember that our work here today has the power to impact the lives of people in our countries.

In this room, we are more than just Health Ministers; we are architects of change, advocates for progress and guardians of public health. We have the power to transform health in our nations and lead the way for a brighter and healthier future for generations to come.

Following consultation, this meeting will focus on the themes of cancer, including a special focus on population screening programmes and paediatric cancer, and health and climate change, impact and experiences of small countries. Along with the issues that are still under process from previous sessions, we will have a rich political and technical agenda, aiming to benefit public health.

Together, we represent a plethora of expertise and experiences, all converging towards a common goal: safeguarding and promoting public health. Together, we can leverage our collective expertise and resources to address common challenges.

Finally, I extend my deepest gratitude to each of you for your dedication, passion and unwavering commitment to the health and well-being of your nations. Let us seize this opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people in our countries.

Distinguished Regional General,

Distinguished European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety,

Distinguished Health Ministers,

Esteemed delegates and honourable guests,

Once again, I extend a heartfelt welcome to each one of you. Let us make the most of this opportunity to learn from each other, inspire each other and to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the noble cause of public health.

Thank you.