WHO/Europe and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today reaffirmed and strengthened their cooperation with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Ms Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC’s Regional Director for Europe and Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe jointly signed the MoU. This further cements the existing relationship between the 2 organizations, who have cooperated closely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ms Bischoff Ebbesen stated: “Access to preventive measures and response to urgent health needs are crucial priorities, as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated. We look forward to reinforcing our cooperation with WHO/Europe to help guarantee health services for all, with a particular focus on supporting the most vulnerable. Together, we must ensure nobody is left behind.”
The MoU provides a framework for supporting countries in the Region to achieve universal health coverage through the coordinated efforts of ministries of health, the IFRC, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and WHO/Europe, including WHO country offices.
Dr Kluge said: “The signing of this memorandum of understanding further strengthens the ties between WHO/Europe and IFRC, moving our existing collaboration forward in a range of areas, including: building universal health coverage in communities, promoting healthy lifestyles, preventing noncommunicable diseases, increasing voluntary blood donations and responding to emergencies. Partnerships such as this one are crucial to our impact on the ground and form a vital part of delivering the European Programme of Work.”
Closer cooperation during the COVID-19 pandemic
During the pandemic, joint activities and partnerships continue to be of central importance in terms of response and recovery. For example, the WHO-UN-Red Cross COVID-19 Platform has been a key source of information sharing and cooperation.
The MoU captures the commitment of WHO/Europe and IFRC to work together to achieve their common aim: improving the lives of the most vulnerable and reducing or eliminating avoidable inequities in health conditions. This will only be achieved through increasing universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support services.
Building on existing agreements
Through the MoU, the 2 organizations will increase and mainstream collaboration in the following areas: universal health coverage with a focus on community health and access to health services by displaced people; health in emergencies including pandemic preparedness and response, COVID-19 and vaccination; mental health and psychosocial support; ageing and the promotion of healthy lifestyles and NCD prevention throughout the life course; HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis; voluntary blood donor recruitment; and evidence-based approaches, innovation and health data management.
The MoU also seeks to enhance and support cooperation among ministries of health, WHO/Europe, and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and to tap into each other’s comparative advantages in promoting health in the Region.
Moreover, the MoU goes beyond previous agreements to ensure lasting and suitable impact by establishing a concrete action plan for cooperation. This was facilitated by a series of technical meetings held immediately after the signing ceremony, and will be followed by annual meetings to better understand the impact of the cooperation, share lessons learned and optimize synergies.
The signing ceremony took place the week before the 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe, which focuses on the importance of partnerships to achieve the goals of the European Programme of Work 2020–2025 – “United Action for Better Health in Europe”.