Meryame Kitir advocates for fair access to safe painkillers worldwide

In the margins of the 64th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), Belgium, together with some other partners, organized an event on fair access to regulated medicines in Covid-times.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has only increased existing inequalities in access to health care. Minister of Development Cooperation Meryame Kitir therefore called for immediate action to ensure global access to quality healthcare, including access to safe painkillers.

In 2015, an estimated 65 million people faced severe suffering due to very limited access to appropriate painkillers. The vast majority of those people live in low- and middle-income countries. Within that group, children are hardest hit.

This inequality also has the perverse effect of causing these people to seek solace in falsified medical products which themselves pose an additional health risk. For example, in countries that do not yet have access to safe COVID vaccines, we are seeing a large market for falsified vaccines. "Only through international cooperation can we fight against this kind of harmful practice," states Minister Kitir.

For years, Belgium has been proactively working to promote access to regulated medicines, including painkillers, and to combat falsified medical products. Our country was one of the initiators of various international treaties and instruments on this subject. At the initiative of Belgium and Australia, the CND adopted an important resolution last year to promote awareness and tackle this issue.

Belgium is also supporting the actions of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on the ground, for example in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With Belgian support, UNODC is strengthening the capacities of Congolese national regulatory authorities to help prevent falsified medical products from freely entering the market.

As the Covid pandemic made clear once again, more efforts are needed to create an efficient framework to improve global access to quality health care and safe medicines. Within the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Belgium is also committed, together with other EU countries, to issues such as reducing the stigma attached to drug use. As a committed member, Belgium is a candidate to chair this Commission next year and wants to continue to focus on these important issues.