The Steering Committee on Health (SCH) of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held an extraordinary meeting today, April 9, 2020, at the OIC General Secretariat via video conference under the Chairpersonship of H.E. Minister of Health and Prevention in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Chair of the Seventh Islamic Conference of Health Ministers (ICHM).
The main objective of the meeting was to share knowledge and information on the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which has had devastating global reverberations, and discuss the ways and means to coordinate the individual and collective response thereto in the OIC Member States. This is in line with the objectives of the OIC Charter that calls for cooperation and coordination among Member States in humanitarian emergencies.
The meeting recognized that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic constitutes an unprecedented challenge for the OIC Member States and the world at large. It requires immediate and decisive actions at the OIC, national, regional, and domestic levels to curb its spread and to protect the people, especially the vulnerable groups.
The meeting reviewed the level of preparedness of Member States in addressing the pandemic and underscored the need for the Member States to put in place national Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (“EPR Plan”) to strengthen prevention, impact mitigation, and other interventions.
The meeting praised its Chair, UAE, and appreciated its expeditious response to hold it and the Chairpersonship of H.E. the UAE Minister of Health of its proceedings.
In this regard, the meeting commended the OIC Member States for their timely proactive, preventive, treatment, and precautionary actions to prevent the spread of the disease. They also expressed gratitude and appreciation to all frontline health professionals and others who are providing essential services to the people in these difficult times for their dedication and tireless efforts.
The meeting saluted the strenuous efforts made by Member States in terms of strengthening their national capabilities and medical preparedness in the face of the pandemic. The Ministers praised the progress made by some Member States in the field of specialized laboratories, the material support they provided to the World Health Organization (WHO) and their cooperation with the international community. The meeting also noted the strict precautionary measures taken by Member States to prevent the spread of the pandemic and providing the medical and logistical capabilities to isolate and treat the suspected or infected cases among their citizens and residents.
The meeting acknowledged the important role of the religious and community leaders and Muslim scholars in raising the public awareness about personal hygiene, safe practices, and appropriate behaviour as important tools to stop the spread of Covid-19 and protect lives in Member States. In this connection, the Health Ministers took note of the Joint Statement issued by the Islamic Advisory Group (IAG) urging religious scholars, Muslim communities, and individuals to abide by Islamic teachings to protect themselves and others. It is noteworthy that the IAG comprises the OIC General Secretariat, the International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA), the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), and Al-Azhar Ash-Sharif. It also comprises religious scholars, technical experts, and academia from the Muslim world to promote appropriate health-seeking behaviours and enhance access to health services in light of Islamic teachings.
The meeting of Health commended the role of OIC and its relevant organs, including the IsDB, in helping Member States to confront the coronavirus pandemic. They appreciated the OIC-ISF Urgent Initiative to Assist Member States to Confront Coronavirus Pandemic and the IsDB Strategic Preparedness and Response Facility to help the most vulnerable Member States in mitigating the negative health and socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting also appreciated SESRIC for developing, launching and regularly updating COVID-19 Pandemic Database for OIC Member States.
The meeting stressed the importance that Member States and the OIC General Secretariat intensify their efforts with the international community to enhance the international efforts to eradicate this pandemic. The participants noted with appreciation the international organizations and bodies, especially the WHO, the Global Fund (GF) and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance for the valuable efforts being made towards addressing the cross-border challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the important contribution made toward the global public health.
The meeting called upon Member States, WHO, UNICEF, GAVI, the Vaccine alliance and other relevant organizations to help accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of vaccines against COVID-19. The meeting also called upon Member States and relevant OIC institutions to actively participate in the forthcoming third replenishment of GAVI scheduled for June 2020 in the United Kingdom.
The meeting called upon the OIC General Secretariat to continue its effective coordination with the international partners to support the OIC Member States in curbing the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The meeting called upon the OIC Member States, charitable organizations, philanthropists, and other international organizations to:
– Strengthen the coordination of national and regional efforts and the strategies geared to stem further spread of the disease in Member States and enhance the capacity of health and medical personnel to prevent and control the infectious and communicable diseases, such as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
– Coordinate the contributions to the efforts aimed at meeting the shortages of essential medical supplies, especially diagnostic kits and personal protective equipment for the health professionals in Member States, especially in the most vulnerable Member States.
– Encourage Member States to scale up timely and transparent sharing of information on the issues of global public health concern on the prevention, detection, and treatment of the cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), epidemiological and clinical research data exchange, and materials necessary for research and development of medical treatment for this virus.
– Support the local companies to increase domestic production of key consumables/products used in responding to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), including hand sanitizers, facemasks, medical products, and soap, and ensure these are available at an affordable price and on an equitable basis where most needed.
– Encourage preventive measures, such as hand washing and sanitization of surfaces, in workplaces and adopt social distancing.
– Strengthen cooperation in using information and communication technologies to ensure the provision of correct information on the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to the public on a regular basis so that they are not misled by misinformation and fake news in this regard.
– Support the OIC-ISF Urgent Initiative to respond to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19)