Secretary-General’s Message for International Universal Health Coverage Day, 12 December 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us just how important it is for all countries to have strong health systems that provide the entire population with quality services when and where they need them.

This year we have seen the tragedy that strikes when health facilities are overwhelmed by a new, highly infectious and often deadly disease – and when the effort to address that emergency means that systems are so stretched they can no longer provide other essential services such as cancer screening, routine immunization and care for mothers and babies.

We must do far more if we are to reach our goal of achieving universal health coverage by 2030.

This means spending more on health. But it also means spending better, from protecting health workers and strengthening infrastructure to preventing diseases and providing healthcare close to home, in the community.  Investments in health systems also improve countries’ preparedness and response to future health emergencies.

Health emergencies have disproportionate impacts on marginalized and vulnerable populations.  As new COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments become available, they must reach all those who need them.  This year’s pandemic has shown us that no one is safe until everyone is safe.

In responding to the pandemic, we have seen rapid innovative approaches to health service delivery and models of care, and advances in preparedness. We must learn from this experience.

For Universal Health Coverage Day, let us commitment to end this crisis and build a safer and healthier future by investing in health systems that protect us all — now.

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