July 13, 2020
JICA HQ, Tokyo, Japan
COVID-19 has caused unprecedented damage on people's health and their activities. The pandemic has exposed social protection weaknesses in even the richest countries. It also has had disproportionate impacts on the most vulnerable and those poorest in developing countries. Japan, so far, has managed to keep COVID-19 per capita fatalities and infections among the lowest in the world. However, we must now prepare for second and third wave infections. Nobody will be safe until everyone is safe. In order to contain COVID-19, we must realize a world where everyone can live in dignity. This is what Japan is pursuing under the concept of Human Security.
We need both prevention and treatment to control infectious diseases. Japan has long contributed to efforts for medical treatments. In the early twentieth century, Dr. NOGUCHI Hideyo, a Japanese scientist, worked hard to find the major causes of disease transmission. In his name, Ghana established the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research with Japan's cooperation. This institute is now not only conducting 80% of Ghana's PCR testing to diagnose COVID-19, but also training laboratory technicians in West Africa.
Prevention is far more important than treatment. Washing hands is the simple and most effective solution to prevent infectious diseases. In Madagascar, the Minister of Water, Hygiene and Sanitation, who used to be a colleague of JICA, has promoted the "Handwashing Song" - written by a popular local singer and a JICA Volunteer. Additionally, JICA has worked to introduce the "Maternal and Child Health Handbook" in around 50 countries. This home-based health record that originated in Japan seeks to protect the health of mothers and children.
Furthermore, JICA is planning to launch a new initiative with an aim to establish resilient health and medical systems throughout the world. Details will be revealed soon. I believe this shows our commitment to promote Universal Health Coverage, or UHC. Let us all strengthen our partnerships and efforts to protect people's health and lives.