Riyadh’s global healthcare forum explores post-COVID recovery

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JEDDAH: A two-day global healthcare forum began in Riyadh on Wednesday.
The third Saving Lives Sustainably: Sustainable Production in the Health Sector Global Forum is running on the sidelines of the G20 Saudi Presidency under the theme “Recovering Better after COVID-19 with Sustainable Production and Procurement of Health Commodities.”
The forum has been organized by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), the G20 Saudi Secretariat, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Secretariat of the UN informal Interagency Task Team on Sustainable Procurement in the Health Sector (SPHS) and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
The first day of the forum featured keynote speakers including Hisham Aljadhey, SFDA’s president; the governor of Saudi Customs, Ahmed Al-Hakbani; Swedish Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Niclas Trouvé; the UNDP resident representative for Saudi Arabia Adam Charles Bouloukos; the World Health Organization’s (WHO) country representative for Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait Dr. Ibrahim El-Ziq; and the co-founder of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), Gary Cohen.
In addition, dozens of scholars and experts from around the world are participating in 13 discussion panels and sessions.
Participants will discuss experiences of and ideas about sustainable production and supply in the global health sector, responsible business behavior, medical and safety devices, food safety and risk assessment, supply chains, and how the world is preparing for future health crises.
“Early this year, as a result of this pandemic, humanity woke up to an unprecedented and dire experience, which paralyzed movement and changed the rules of life and caused a heavy blow to the global economy and supply chain, threatening global access to food and medicine,” Aljadhey said in his opening remarks.
He went on to highlight how Saudi Arabia had become one of “the top 10 countries in containing the economic consequences of COVID-19” and how, by the end of 2020, Saudi Arabia would be “one of the least affected countries by the pandemic.”
“Supported by actual numbers and evidence, Saudi Arabia has led an international and humanitarian approach that makes us proudly say: Let’s inspire the world with our summits,” he said.
Aljadhey said the SFDA prioritizes sustainable production — which contributes to
the preservation of the planet — and female empowerment, in line with Saudi Vision 2030 and G20 strategies.
Trouvé, the Swedish ambassador, said in the opening session that the world needs healthcare systems that can “adapt swiftly to new challenges; and the global community needs to step up its efforts to ensure access to quality healthcare for all.”
Achieving this, he added, requires a “holistic view of procurement,” the improvement of hospital workflows and investment in professional education.
The envoy cited an example of international solidarity between Saudi Arabia and Sweden, in which the latter facilitated the delivery of 2,240 ventilators to the Kingdom. “In hard times, friends and global cooperation like this is more necessary than ever before,” he said.
He also stressed that health care supply chains must be properly monitored to avoid “harmful production processes and improper disposal of healthcare products, which contribute to climate change and environmental degradation.”
Bouloukos echoed his point, noting that humanity, collectively, has exploited the planet through the inefficient use and depletion of its natural resources. “In a quest for a better life — and sometimes a more consumption-based life — we’ve jeopardized future generations by triggering climate change,” he said.
However, he stressed that the potential exists to “decarbonize and detoxify” the health sector, citing examples from around the world that could be replicated globally. “There is no shortage of good ideas,” he said. “We just have to apply them.”
Bouloukos concluded his speech by hailing the Kingdom’s G20 presidency and its hosting of the event. “This year has been full of outward-looking efforts of the Kingdom. The G20 is a catalyst for that outward vision,” he said. “It is evident that Saudi Arabia is not only a regional leader but a global one.”

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