First Vietnamese in WHO promotes regional healthcare

Monday, 2021-08-16 10:04:28
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Assoc. Prof., Dr. Tran Thi Giang Huong in her office at WHO Western Pacific Region. (Photo: Ministry of Health)
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NDO – As the first Vietnamese person to take on a high role in the world's largest medical organisation World Health Organisation (WHO), Assoc. Prof., Dr. Tran Thi Giang Huong has spared no efforts in contributing to the protection of people's health not only in Vietnam but also in the Western Pacific region.

Two years ago, in July 2019, Huong, Director of the Department of International Cooperation at the Vietnamese Ministry of Health, was appointed to the position of the director of Division of Programmes for Disease Control at the WHO Western Pacific Region based in the Philippines. Since then, the Vietnamese health official has demonstrated her professional competence and has been highly lauded by the WHO Regional Director and colleagues.

This is a great source of motivation to help her continue to fulfill her assigned responsibilities, contributing to the care and protection of the health of 1.9 billion people in a region consisting of 37 countries and territories, including Vietnam, she said.

Every day, she is dedicating her heart and mind to the homeland Vietnam fighting against "invisible enemy" – the COVID-19 epidemic.

In a recent interview with the Ministry of Health’s Suc Khoe va Doi Song (Health and Life) Newspaper, Huong recalled her memorable experiences during her role at WHO. After only six months working there, when the COVID-19 epidemic broke out in January 2020, Huong was assigned an additional responsibility to work as acting director of the Emergency Medical Programmes for the region from February 2020 to October.

“It was an unforgettable time for me, because it was a new disease outbreak, and I had to take on two big responsibilities at the same time. The work pressure was huge, but I told myself this was a challenging period and I needed to overcome it and make my best efforts to complete the assigned tasks, contributing to making the Western Pacific region one of the most successful regions in epidemic prevention and control with low morbidity and mortality rates, regarding which Vietnam was considered a model in COVID-19 prevention and control,” Huong said.

From October 2020, she continued to be assigned as head of the WHO regional working group and coordinator on COVID-19 vaccines, responsible for coordinating and supporting the programme on facilitating vaccine access under the COVAX Facility and vaccination implementation to countries in the region in a fair and effective manner.

Up to now, the COVAX Facility has donated 32 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to countries participating in the mechanism in the region, including Vietnam, which has received over 10 million doses, making an important contribution to the fight against the epidemic, especially in the context of the widespread outbreaks in Ho Chi Minh City and other southern provinces.

According to Huong, over the past few years, while implementing the guidelines and policies of the Party and State on foreign affairs and international integration, Vietnam's health sector has become deeply and comprehensively integrated into the world, making a positive contribution to the country's international integration process and enhancing the role and position of the Vietnamese health sector in particular and the country in general in the international arena.

“In my role, I am aware that participating in international organisations is an effective and practical contribution and responsibility, while at the same time contributing to the improvement of the role and position of Vietnam in the international arena,” Huong said.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Tran Thi Giang Huong (L), Director of the International Cooperation Department, Ministry of Health, is honoured with the second-class Labour Order in July 2019. (Photo: Ministry of Health)

She added that it has been a great opportunity for her to devote and accumulate valuable international experience to better fulfill her domestic responsibilities, thereby contributing to health protection and promotion throughout the region, as well as demonstrating Vietnam's role and contribution in solving global and regional health issues.

This is also the Party and State’s policy in demonstrating the active role and effective contribution of Vietnam to multilateral international institutions, she affirmed.

Huong recalled her memories when Vietnam was recognised by WHO as the first country in the world to successfully control the SARS epidemic – a fight she played a key part in – at a session of the World Health Assembly in May 2003.

“It was my experience in the prevention of SARS in Vietnam that helped me a lot when I was assigned the role of acting Director of the WHO Regional Emergency Health Programme to direct the response to the COVID-19 epidemic in the region,” she said.

Huong also pointed to the impressive contribution of the Vietnamese health sector to the world during her career of over a quarter of a century, during which Vietnam has hosted a range of important international health events, such as the 63rd session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in 2012, the 12th ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting in 2014 and the APEC Vietnam 2017. Vietnam was also honoured to be elected as a member of the Executive Council of the WHO for the 2016-2019 term, participating in the process of making global health policies.

She also participated in negotiating and building various international support projects for the domestic health sector, which so far have brought about great effectiveness, actively contributing to the care and protection of the health of the Vietnamese people, especially in the treatment and prevention of COVID-19 and vaccine production in Vietnam. This is also a good foundation for Vietnam to develop a strategy for the production of COVID-19 vaccines in the near future, Huong stated.

In the near future, she vowed to continue to make efforts regarding the prevention of COVID-19 in the region by promoting more access to vaccines for countries in the region, including Vietnam, in order to ensure adequate vaccination for priority groups in order to reach the target of vaccination of at least 70-80% of the population, while continuing to implement public health and social distancing measures to repel the epidemic and realise the "new normal" roadmap to achieving the Government's dual goals.

“The WHO will continue to provide technical support to Vietnam in its epidemic prevention efforts and in the process of research, clinical trials and production of domestic vaccines to ensure quality and safety according to WHO standards, helping Vietnam master new technologies and be self-sufficient in vaccine production for the prevention and control of COVID-19 and other diseases in the future,” Huong said.