I lost my father in January. He was very ill. I flew back to Japan, but he passed away during my mandatory self-confinement. He did not die of COVID, but I was together with those millions of people in the COVID stricken world, who couldn’t share the last moment of the beloved ones.
However sad, I was fortunate to be comforted by many kind words from friends. I am also sincerely thankful to all the healthcare workers who are fighting at the frontline against this virus. The solidarity is more than ever needed now, in the society as well as in the international community.
What will be the Post-COVID world? It will be very different, depending on whether or not we manage to give the right response. Historically, far more people have been killed by diseases than wars. Such was the case of 1918 influenza pandemic during WWI. Today, the spread of the coronavirus is posing a threat to the lives, way of life and dignity of every woman and man across the globe. This is a matter of security, but to address it, we should pay greater attention to each human being, focusing on individuals’ safety, well-being, and dignity, and should “leave no one behind.” This is precisely the “human security” approach that is getting larger international support in the COVID context, with Japan one of its most vocal advocators.
We should work together to create a human-centered inclusive society through international partnership.
One concrete goal, guided by the principle of human security should be to achieve universal health coverage (UHC). UHC allows all people to enjoy adequate health and medical services at affordable costs. Japan’s economic development and healthy longevity owes a lot to its universal health insurance system, introduced after the chaos and poverty following WWII. Japan has been sharing such experience and knowledge with countries in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Egypt is a leading country in the region in this area, implementing since 2018 the Universal Health Insurance (UHI) Law. I am pleased that Japan could share its expertise with Egypt and work together in international fora to generalize UHC.
Japan is striving to play its part to overcome this global crisis. It is acting on three levels in the partnership with developing countries:
– safeguard the lives from the novel coronavirus disease;
– strengthen the health and medical system to prepare for future health crisis; and
– mitigate the economic and social impacts.
In the relations with Egypt, it should first be emphasized that our two countries have long relations in the health and medical sector. One symbolic example is the Cairo University Pediatric Hospital, called Japanese Hospital. Under the current pandemic, Japan has doubled its efforts to enhance resilience of the Egyptian health and medical system. It decided last October to provide 1 billion yen (approx. 9.4million US dollars) worth of medical equipment, such as CT scanners to Egyptian hospitals. It also delivered ultra-sound diagnostic imaging equipment to Ain Shams University last November. Suez Canal University and Faiyum University will be next beneficiaries of such equipment.
Japan has also been working through international organizations. We decided to contribute more than 6 million US dollars for the benefit of the Egyptian health and medical system and to support vulnerable populations, including women and children.
Let me mention that Japan was the second largest contributor to WHO in 2019. It decided to extend 200 million US dollars to COVAX, a framework to distribute vaccines around the world, to secure a stable procurement of vaccines around the world including Egypt.
On a broader economic and social level, we agreed to extend to Egypt a large-scale loan of 25 billion yen (approx. 240 million US dollars) on February 15. This is to support the electricity sector reform but also expected to facilitate the financial situation to cope with the impact of the pandemic.
Japan will continue to work with Egypt and the world under the guiding principle of leaving behind no one and no one’s health.
Egypt gave recently a hope to the world. The World Men’s Handball Championships showed a successful example of running an international competition under the pandemic. Japan is also continuing its efforts to host this summer the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 in a safe and secure manner.
Our Prime Minister, Mr. SUGA Yoshihide, mentioned in his statement last September at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly: “Looking forward, we need to “build back better” from the COVID-19 pandemic and create a flexible yet resilient society where the SDGs have been achieved and a virtuous cycle of environment and growth is generated.” We should turn the current hardship into a driving force to transform a world into a better place.
I love Ancient Egypt because it gives me lots of wisdom and courage. “Who you are is limited only by who you think you are,” so says the Book of the Dead. Let us believe in ourselves.
Noke Masaki, Ambassador of Japan to Egypt