Investments in women: investments in health

Women play central, diverse and multifaceted roles in safeguarding children from polio, proving that investments in women’s capacities and skills translate into investments in strengthening health systems.

The stories below highlight some ways in which women are breaking barriers, driving change and inching us closer to a polio-free world wherever they take charge – from doorsteps to laboratories to decision-making tables.

Driving regional solidarity for polio eradication

Dr Hanan Balkhy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean

Dr Hanan Balkhy made history in February 2024 when she became the first woman to take up the post of WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. With unwavering determination, she embarked on her new role with a clear vision: to eradicate polio during her tenure.

In her nomination speech, she shared her inspiration, drawn from success stories of joint efforts across the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region. Dr Balkhy fervently believes in the need for collective action to overcome the obstacles in the path to polio eradication.

Dr Balkhy will convene the Regional Subcommittee for Polio Eradication and Outbreaks. To champion the Region’s work to consign polio to history, she will support the regional polio eradication programme, remove obstacles and work closely with global and regional decision-making bodies.

She calls upon all stakeholders to unite with resolute determination until polio becomes nothing more than a distant memory.

Blazing a trail with the Regional Subcommittee

Her Excellency Dr Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari, Minister of Public Health, Qatar 

An inspiration to women globally, Qatari Minister of Public Health H.E. Dr Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari has been harnessing decision-makers’ power to galvanize action for polio eradication.

As Co-Chair of the Regional Subcommittee for Polio Eradication and Outbreaks since 2022, she has created a strong sense of solidarity among Member States of the Region and partners, reminding them of the urgent need to prioritize polio eradication. Using every possible chance to highlight the challenges faced by countries with wild or variant poliovirus cases, she has mobilized action to reach vulnerable children with polio vaccines and other health services.

Dr Al Kuwari has used her platform and voice to reveal issues faced by polio eradicators in the Region and offer solutions. At the same time, she has raised the visibility of the trailblazing Regional Subcommittee’s goals and work.

Read more on the WHO EMRO website.


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21 February 2024, Aden, Yemen