From inequality to health care — 6 points from Cyril Ramaphosa's World Health Assembly address

19 May 2020 - 08:29 By Cebelihle Bhengu
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday delivered a virtual address at the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA), a decision-making body of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHA meets annually in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss policy issues of the organisation.

Ramaphosa, also chair of the African Union (AU), highlighted issues including the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in the global economy and health care systems.

Here’s what he said in six telling quotes:

The impact of Covid-19

“We are in the midst of the most serious public health emergency our world has experienced in over 100 years. Containing the coronavirus pandemic has dwarfed all other issues facing the international community and individual countries. It is impacting the economy, human health and livelihoods of millions of people.” 


“Although the virus has affected both the developed and developing countries, it is the poor who suffer the most. The pandemic has highlighted the dangerous and growing inequality that exists between countries and within them.”

Weakened health care systems

“The health care systems of many countries are struggling to cope. Some have been weakened by underfunding and neglect, others are under pressure because they were designed to serve the select few.”

Moving forward

“The global recovery depends on our ability to accept the reality that this virus will be with us for some time, and that we need to prepare to adapt accordingly. The social distancing, hygiene and other protocols recommended by the World Health Organisation must become part of our everyday lives.”

Africa supports WHO

“Africa affirms its full support for the World Health Organisation, which has been key in guiding the international response to the pandemic. The WHO has been instrumental in providing guidance and support to African governments as Africa is vulnerable and needs assistance.”

African Union response 

“The AU has taken very deliberate steps to respond to this scourge. It has made a call for developing countries to be assisted in their efforts to combat the pandemic and to rebuild their economies. This assistance needs to include debt relief, assistance with regard to diagnostic and therapeutic medical supplies.”