«The best response to COVID-19 is to guarantee the right to health care»

Aloysius John, Secretary-General of Caritas Internationalis, summed up the results of a conference organised by Caritas Internationalis as a side event of the 2022 United Nations ECOSOC Partnership Forum

 “Access to basic health is a basic right that is not catered to and needs to be addressed immediately in a coordinated manner. One of the main issues that the Covid-19 pandemic brought to evidence is the need to increase investment in health systems, and today millions of people do not have access to basic health care”.

So said Aloysius John, Secretary-General of Caritas Internationalis, opening the meeting organised yesterday by Caritas Internationalis as a side event of the 2022 UN ECOSOC Partnership Forum.

The event, entitled «Working successfully together, health innovative partnerships to build back better from the COVID-19. Experiences from Peru, Lebanon and DRC», aimed at showing the importance of partnerships between government institutions, private sector, and civil society organisations as Caritas in the COVID-19 response.

During the conference, moderated by Francis X. Rocca, Vatican Correspondent, The Wall Street Journal, Caritas and governments representatives from Peru, Lebanon and DRC illustrated best practices of effective synergy between national Caritas, local governments and Church institutions.

“The success factors identified by the three organisations are a public trust, the existence of social safety nets, important health expertise and strong health systems and synergising with different actors for building health partnerships and alliances to build back better the lives of the people”, added Aloysius John. “The COVID-19 pandemic must be seized as an opportunity to reflect on what new forms of creative solidarity should be put in place to build a better future”, he added.


The case of Peru

The former Prime Minister of the Republic of Peru, Mirtha Vasquez, confirmed the importance of Church-inspired initiatives in the fight against COVID-19: “The Peruvian Bishops’ Conference initiatives have significantly helped individuals and families”.

“In Peru, Caritas worked on four initiatives in response to the pandemic crisis, for a total of 287 social projects that supported 1,286,267 families”, explained Angel Allccarima, risk and climate change manager of Caritas Peru. “About 7.5 million dollars were raised to deal with the COVID-19 emergency and we worked in concert with national institutions, such as the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior, Armed Forces, Ministry of Health and the National Penitentiary Institute”. Forty-nine local Caritas and 1,561 parishes have worked hand in hand with private companies that have provided not only funds but also COVID-19 intervention tools, such as oxygen equipment.

The case of Lebanon

Ola Sidani, Economic Expert, Presidency of the Council of Ministers of Lebanon, also stressed the importance of the collaboration between governmental structures and humanitarian organisations in the response to the pandemic. “Lebanon’s official response to the COVID-19 pandemic comes within a framework of an unprecedented multifaceted economic, banking, and financial crisis. There was a surged and urgent need to utilize unprepared public sector hospitals as frontline versus private sector hospitals which came in later, and accordingly, a need to raise funds to increase hospitals bed capacity, personal safety kits for staff, medical equipment needed”.

Cindy Hakme, Senior Grants Coordinator of Caritas Lebanon, explained that Caritas Lebanon Health Department worked in coordination with the Lebanese Ministry of Health on guidelines and message transmission and, in the 5 Lebanese governorates, on referrals to public hospitals. She also stressed again the importance of “building partnerships and alliances and strengthening community systems”.


The case of the Democratic Republic of Congo

John Maurice Salumu Kikuni, Public Health Expert at the Technical Support Unit of the General Secretariat, Ministry of Health, described the impact of COVID-19 in a country where “there have been 85379 cases of COVID-19, 1278 deaths and only 0.2% of the population is fully vaccinated”. He also stressed «the need to work together, through successful and innovative health partnerships, in order to rebuild better after COVID-19».

As explained by Jean Munongo, National Coordinator for Health promotion service of Caritas Congo ASBL,in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Caritas manages more than 40% of the of healthcare facilities : 125 primary hospitals, 128 secondary hospitals, 1,318 health centres and 50 medical and nursing training institutions., Since 2018, the organisations has also a 10 year partnership agreement with the Congolese Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finances.

Summing up the results of the conference, Rita Rhayem, Health & HIV Advisor, Caritas Internationalis, reiterated “the importance of partnerships even in the most difficult economic crises, as the case of Lebanon demonstrates. The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to reflect on the safety of humanity and the most vulnerable people that Caritas serve”.


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