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74th United Nations General Assembly: Wellbeing Foundation Africa advocates for whole-system support to achieve Universal Health Coverage

Toyin Saraki, global health advocate and Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, led a WBFA delegation to the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York last week. 

Each year representatives from the 193 Member States of the United Nations take part in the General Assembly to discuss and work together on key global issues covered. The theme of this year’s General Debate was ‘Galvanising multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion’. 

The UN Political Declaration on universal health coverage, or UHC, was welcomed as an “important landmark” on our “journey to health for all”, by Secretary-General António Guterres. Toyin Saraki, named by Devex as a global ‘health-for-all’ champion, noted that the commitment rightly guides countries to invest in four major areas around primary care.
Please read on for further details of the panels, meetings and events undertaken by Toyin Saraki and the WBFA delegation at the General Assembly this year.


Walk the Talk NYC

Toyin Saraki joined Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, thousands of people for Walk the Talk: The Health for All Challenge. The walk was organized by the WHO, the United Nations, and the City of New York, to promote healthy lifestyles and to advocate for the idea that everyone should have access to the care they need when they need it. The walk followed Toyin Saraki and Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s participation in Walk the Talk Abuja either this month. 

PMNCH Accountability Breakfast

As PMNCH’s original in-country Nigerian partner, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa was delighted to support the partnership’s accountability breakfast. The discussion centred around the need for development agencies to move away from short-term project models, which lack a durable impact. Instead, a consensus emerged that the sector must seek to support and centre country efforts, enabling governments to lead the provision of quality women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health care.

Meeting with Pape Gaye CEO of IntraHealth and Chris Le Grant President of DAI Global

UN General Assembly week offered the respective heads of Wellbeing Foundation, DAI Global, and IntraHealth the opportunity for a  valuable in-person meeting, which allowed for a productive decision-making session related to their initiative to open Primary Health Care Facilities in Nigeria.

Concordia Summit Africa Reception

Toyin Saraki hosted Concordia’s Africa Reception, alongside H.E former President Obasanjo, First Lady of Namibia Monica Geingos and Dr Jabulane Mabuza, chairman of Sun International. Concordia’s core belief is that African voices belong in global conversations and that innovation is stifled when the continent’s thinkers are pigeonholed to discussions solely related to regional issues.

The Launch of the 2019 Global Monitoring Report, Primary Health Care on the Road to Universal Health Coverage.

Toyin Saraki welcomed the Global Monitoring Report at its UNGA launch. The Report offers insight into who is being left behind on the road to universal health coverage and why. Panellists at the event included Dr Tedros, Director General of the WHO, UNICEF Chief Henrietta Ford, Dr Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Directory, Muhammad Pate Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group and Director of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents, and Gabriela Ramos OECD Chief of Staff. 


Ivanka Trump’s Roundtable: Women’s Development & Prosperity, Concordia Summit

Toyin Saraki observed Ivanka Trump’s roundtable on Women’s Global Development and Prosperity. An initiative aiming to reach 50 million women by 2025 to boost female economic empowerment, collective economic prosperity, and global stability. Mrs Saraki welcomed the prospect of the initiative reaching Nigeria.

Concordia’s Leadership Council Lunch Meeting

As a new member of the Council, Toyin Saraki attended her first Concordia Leadership Council Meeting, joining the ranks of dignitaries including H.E. Laura Chinchilla, Former President, Republic of Costa Rica, and H.E. Luis Alberto Lacalle Herrera, Former President of Uruguay. Toyin Saraki stated ‘I am optimistic, following strategic planning discussions on how we can bring expand Concordia’s remit further into Africa. By providing an international partnership platform I hope we can elevate African voices and priorities on the international stage.’

Roundtable Participation. Health Returns: The Role of Public-Private Partnership in Delivering Universal Health Care

The Wellbeing Foundation delegation joined KPMG Global Chairman and Senior Partners for Healthcare, Government and Infrastructure, Dr. Mark Britnell for a fireside chat on Universal Health Coverage. This roundtable provided an opportunity for the Wellbeing Foundation to discuss healthcare provision in emerging and developing markets with regulators, financiers, and innovators. The roundtable facilitated discussion and new relationships, further supporting the Foundation’s health facility initiative with IntraHealth and Dai Global.

Access Challenge’s One by One Conference: Clean Water Access and Sanitation Panel

During the One by One conference, Toyin Saraki advocated for WASH, alongside a panel of Dr. Mwele Ntuli Malecela, Director of NTDs at the WHO, Angela Nguku, Director of White Ribbon Alliance Kenya, Jennifer Sara, Global Director of the World Bank’s Water Global Practice, Malcolm Quigley, Deputy Director Innovation of the Maverick Collective, and David Evangelista Director of the Special Olympics.

Mrs Saraki highlighted the gender disparities in regards to access to WASH: ‘A lack of adequate private toilets and clean water to wash hands in schools, and the workplace, make managing periods difficult for girls. Women are at physical risk of assault in places where open defecation is the norm. Women are more likely to be in the home looking after young children and are therefore disproportionally exposed to pathogens in wastewater. Ultimately women bear the brunt of poor WASH conditions.’ 

UNSDG Health Partnership: Sustainable Health Financing and Heath Investment Panel

Toyin Saraki accepted an invitation to moderate the UNSDG Health Partnership High-Level Panel Discussion, entitled ‘Sustainable Health Financing and Heath Investment: Building an Ecosystem for Universal Health Service Delivery in Zimbabwe’. Mrs Saraki facilitated a discussion between Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Ms. Kundai Ziumbe on behalf of Mrs. Tsiti Masiyiwa of the Higherlife Foundation and Ellen Agler, CEO of the End Fund. The event’s keynote speaker was His Excellency President Emmerson Mnangagwa.


Interview with the Foreign Press Association

During an interview with Jeff Oppenheim, Journalist and Documentarian, of the Foreign Press Association, Toyin Saraki shared more about the work of the Wellbeing Foundation, and why she is committed to advocating for universal access to quality care through midwives, nurses and community health workers. The full interview will be shared in due course. 

Sexual and Reproductive Health & Rights Roundtable

Ensuring sexual and reproductive health and rights is a primary driver of individual and societal well-being, and an indispensable and integral element of universal health coverage. However, success hinges on honest, open engagement of young people, especially online, to meet them where they are in their desire for information, advice, and access to services. During this roundtable, the Wellbeing Foundation delegation joined SRHR practitioners, researchers, and funders to explore how best reach and engage young people on matters of sexual and reproductive health and rights regardless of locale.

Meeting with Dr Hayat of the Islamic Development Bank

Her Excellency was delighted to meet Dr Hayat Sindi, Chief Scientific Advisor and Vice President for the Islamic Development Bank at the Goals House. Dr Hayat was the first woman from the Gulf to obtain a PhD (in biotechnology from Cambridge), and is a passionate advocate for the promotion of science-based skills for women. 

Meeting with Joel Kathi Benson – Chibok Girls Film Maker

While at the Goals House, Toyin Saraki met with Joel Kachi Benson, a Nigerian filmmaker, who won the Lion Award for Best Story at the 2019 Venice Festival for his documentary on Chibok School Girls. 

Every Women Every Child High-Level Reception

The Wellbeing Foundation delegation attended the Delivering Together for the Health and Wellbeing of Women, Children and Adolescents to advance Universal Health Coverage Event, hosted by Every Women, and co-organised by the government of Norway and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health. The event allowed for an evening of focused discussion to map out routes for collaboration within new and existing relationships. As former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark stated at the event, it is important to remember ‘that women, children, & adolescents make up 70% of the world's population. If we are not getting their healthcare right we will not make UHC.’


The Importance of Blood for Africa's Mothers OAFLAD Event

Over a third of maternal deaths in Africa are caused by Postpartum Haemorrhage. Blood transfusions can help save mothers' lives, but blood shortages remain frequent in Africa, where over forty countries still fail to attain the WHO donation goal of 10 units per 1,000 people each year.

Toyin Saraki commended this panel event, hosted by Terumo BCT and The Organisation for African First Ladies for Development ‘I hope that high-level advocacy and accompanying events such as this succeed in mobilising the resources needed to elevate adequate, safe and sustainable blood supply on the regional and national public health agendas in sub-Saharan Africa.’

Meeting with UNFPA

The Wellbeing Africa delegation met with Arthur Erken, UNFPA Director, Communications and Strategic Partnerships to strategize on how to accelerate progress in the run up to the Nairobi International Conference on Population and Development, taking place this November. The first conference, which took place 25 years ago, initiated a Programme of Action called for universal access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including voluntary family planning, safe pregnancy and childbirth services, and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. Following a successful meeting, the Wellbeing Foundation is set to lead Nigerian Private Sector Engagement on the road to Nairobi.

Child Marriage in Humanitarian Settings Reception

Toyin Saraki joined United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, Princess Mabel Van Oranje and Belize First Lady Kim Simplis Barrow at the Girls Not Brides ‘Child Marriage in Humanitarian Setting Reception’ hosted by the Ford Foundation. As a long-standing advocacy partner of Girls Not Brides, the Wellbeing Africa reaffirmed its commitments to continue its frontline actions to end child marriage, keep girls in school, and mitigate the effects of teenage pregnancy. 

Global Compact: Trailblazing Women Reception

Toyin Saraki joined dignitaries such as Ann Cairns Executive Vice Chairman at MasterCard, Ann Rosenberg Senior Vice President for UN Partnerships at SAP and H.E María Fernanda Suárez Londoño, Colombian Minister of Mines and Energy, for an evening showcasing trailblazing female executives and entrepreneurs and their impact on business, planet and society. The United Nations Global Compact is a non-binding United Nations pact to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation.


Building Momentum Towards the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 Event

As a member of the IPCD International Steering Committee, Toyin Saraki welcomed significant bilateral commitments made on Thursday’s high-level side event by governments and international development partners. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa looks forward to leading private sector and civil society engagement towards mobilising commitments in support of "The Promise of the ICPD" programme of action to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable development goals.

Action for the Global Health Workforce at UNGA with Johnson & Johnson

The Wellbeing Foundation delegation participated along with fellow allies, partners, health workers and experts in Johnson and Johnson’s ‘Mapping the System’ Workshop. A shared goal of J&J Global Health and WBFA is universal access to quality care through nurses, midwives and community healthcare workers. During the workshop the root causes inhibiting this access were collectively identified, in the hope that by reflecting on the obstacles to progress a light can be shined on the path forward.

Meeting with a Senegalese women's rights activist and African Union Special Envoy Bineta Diop and Young Women Leader Verlaine Soobroydo

Commenting on the meeting Toyin Saraki stated ‘It is always an illuminating privilege to engage with the African Union Special Envoy on Women Peace and Security, H.E. Bineta Diop, and Verlaine Soobroydo. As pioneers of the African Women's Leaders Network with the vital mission of empowering African women, we were honoured to welcome the President of Ethiopia, H.E. Sahle-Work Zewde during our bilateral discussions. I look forward to leading purposeful private sector engagement towards the AWLN Compact in support of the African Women Leaders Network movement for gender equality, peace, economic livelihoods and humanity”.

Following the conclusion of her meetings, Toyin Saraki remarked:

‘Reflecting on this week it is clear that though every United Nation General Assembly is different, the impact is always widespread and profound.’

‘From the plenaries & high-level forums with heads of state to the smaller bilateral meetings and informal conversations with workers - we are all part of an international community coming together to collectively build solutions to challenges that our planet and its people face.’

‘We have a long way to go if we are to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, that is clear. But I am left optimistic by the dedication I have seen this week, and the pervading sense of urgency that has enveloped every conversation and every event I have been part of.’

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