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International Food Safety Conference 2019

Published on: 26 Feb, 2019

There are around 600 million cases of foodborne disease around the world every year. In low- and middle- income countries, these also cause a massive economic burden, costing at least US$100 billion annually. The emerging challenges that come with climate change and new technologies are adding to the ill-effects: global food production and supply systems are increasingly under threat, and vulnerable and marginalised groups, such as women, children and migrants, are disproportionately affected.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), committed to by 193 UN countries are a plan for how to achieve a more sustainable and better future for everyone. This encompasses food safety in particular through Goals 2, 3, 8, 12, 13 and 17:

Goal 2: Zero hunger

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth

Goal 12: Responsible production and consumption

Goal 13: Climate action

Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

Despite this connection between the SDGs and food safety, the problem is only increasing. In light of this, the first ever International Food Safety Conference was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 12-13 February, hosted jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO), the African Union, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO). The event brought together Health and Agriculture Ministers from across the globe, with the aims of:

  • Identifying key actions and strategies to address current and future challenges to food safety globally; and
  • Strengthening commitment at the highest political level to scale up food safety in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

At the conference, participants emphasised several issues, including in particular how to integrate food safety in national and regional policies. The need to combat antimicrobial resistance through ensuring more careful use of antimicrobials in animal plant production was also emphasised. Additionally, it was committed by all to take actions to ensure everyone everywhere would be able to benefit from technological and food sciences developments.

The commitments from this Conference will be followed up on at the upcoming International Forum for Food Safety and Trade, to be held in Geneva from 23-24 April 2019.

Did you know?

POLHN offers a number of free self-paced courses relating to food safety. These include:

Investigation and Response to Food Safety Incidents and Emergencies
Antimicrobial Stewardship Programmes in Hospitals

New WHO Director for the Western Pacific is appointed

Pacific Paramedical Training Centre Logo

WHO Director-General and Dr Takeshi Kasai, Regional Director for WHO’s Western Pacific Region (Photo: WHO/C. Black)

Published on: 13 Feb, 2019

On 26 January, the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board in Geneva appointed Dr Takeshi Kasai as its regional director for the Western Pacific region. He began his 5-year term on 1 February, replacing Dr Shin Young-soo and becoming the fifth director of the region.

The Western Pacific region comprises nearly 1.9 billion people, from East Asia and the Pacific Island countries to Australasia. Dr Kasai has pledged to work hard in his new role to help these people face public health challenges: “For more than seven decades, countries have counted on WHO to work with them to solve a variety of public health challenges. My predecessor, Dr Shin Young-soo, transformed WHO in this Region, making it more people-centered and country-oriented. We must continue to evolve as an organisation – building on past accomplishments while being closely attuned to new realities on the ground.

A career in public health

Dr Kasai is a Japanese national and physician by training, with a public health career spanning back nearly 30 years. He started out as posted in a remote area of Northeast Japan where he provided health services for the elderly. There, he learned first-hand the value of a grassroots approach.

The new Regional Director has worked for WHO for over 15 years, including as WHO representative for Viet Nam and most recently as a deputy to former regional director Dr Shin Young-soo.

Priorities for the new term

Dr Kasai’s term will last from 2019 to 2024, and he has promised to focus on three main health challenges: health security, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and ageing, and the environment and climate change.

In the Western Pacific, NCDs such as cancer and diabetes are becoming increasingly problematic, along with the issue of ageing populations. NCDs are the leading cause of death and disability in the region.

“We must develop new approaches that go beyond advocacy and training, including developing health systems that can effectively address the challenges posed by NCDs – as more people are growing old with one or more chronic conditions,” said Dr Kasai.

On top of this, the region, and particularly Pacific island countries, is already feeling the drastic effects of climate change. In places such as Kiribati and the Marhsall Islands, rising sea levels threaten people’s very existence, with rising sea levels predicted to wash away entire islands in the coming decades.

While these challenges are significant, Dr  Kasai remains optimistic that they can be overcome: “These are huge challenges that we must face together, but they are not insurmountable,” he said. “And while the future will bring new challenges, at the same time it is full of opportunity – as innovation and new technology make things possible that we couldn’t even imagine not so long ago.”

Call for Applications: WHO Healthy Islands Recognition 2019

Published on: 2 Feb, 2019

Have you thought about applying for the Healthy Islands Recognition Award?

The WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific is now inviting Governments, local authorities (city councils, provinces, districts and villages), communities, organizations (including schools, workplaces, faith-based groups) and civil society groups in the 22 Pacific island countries and areas (PICs) to submit applications for Healthy Islands Recognition 2019 under the ‘best practice’ and ‘best proposal’ categories.

The Healthy Islands Recognition Award was intended to encourage PICs to innovate and demonstrate effective and efficient ways of promoting and protecting the health of their populations.

There will be two winners from each of the two categories. Winners will receive up to 10,000 USD to further develop the project or programme set out in the application.

Please share this with other individuals/organizations whose work could also be an inspiration to other Pacific Island Countries.

To apply and for further information please follow this link:—documents/dps/call-for-application-2019-form.pdf?sfvrsn=75d45568_6

Don’t miss this opportunity to be recognized for your work to improve the health and quality of life of Pacific islanders.

Deadline for submission: 31st May 2019

Contact information
Applications and queries should be sent to the following address by email (printed copies may be sent, however only those received by the deadline will be considered).

Applications to be sent to the following emails:

Postal address:

  • World Health Organization – South Pacific Office
    33 Ellery Street, PO Box 113, Suva, Fiji
    Telephone: 679-323-4100
    Facsimile: 679-323-4166