• Kyodo

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A two-day international forum on achieving universal health coverage — by which all the world’s people can receive quality health services without suffering financial hardship — began in Tokyo on Wednesday.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and world leaders are among the attendees at the Universal Health Coverage Forum, organized by the Japanese government and international organizations including the World Bank and World Health Organization.

Universal health coverage is one of the sustainable development goals that U.N. members are aiming to achieve by 2030.

Specifically, the WHO aims to ensure by 2030 that no one falls into poverty because of out-of-pocket health care expenses and that 80 percent of the population in developing countries has access to basic health services.

“Right now, at best only half of the world’s population has coverage for essential health services, and hundreds of millions of people cannot access the health services they need to stay healthy,” Shin Young-soo, the WHO’s regional director for the western Pacific, said in an opening speech.

“This is because services are not available or because, for many people, using them causes serious hardship,” he said.

According to Japanese government officials, the forum is aimed at strengthening the political commitment to universal health coverage and turning it into a global movement.

“If Japan’s experiences are helpful for other countries, we are more than willing to cooperate and share our successes as well as our failures,” Japanese health minister Katsunobu Kato said at the start of the forum.

Over the two days, reports will be presented on the current state of universal health coverage across the world, new innovations that can help achieve it and progress in 10 focus countries including Myanmar and Senegal, the officials said.

Guterres will join Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Senegalese President Macky Sall and Myanmar President Htin Kyaw, as well as heads of international organizations, for a high-level session Thursday.

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