Children’s HeartLink Advocates for Children with Congenital Heart Disease at the 77th World Health Assembly

Published June 27, 2024
Written by Katie Kraft, Advocacy Program Manager at Children’s HeartLink

A full room of attendees at the WHA side event focused on congenital anomalies, co-hosted by Children’s HeartLink

Each May, thousands of government leaders, global health NGOs and advocates come together in Geneva, Switzerland for the annual meeting of the World Health Assembly (WHA). The WHA is the global governing body of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the annual meeting is the highest health policy setting in the world. 

Health ministers and global health leaders come to Geneva to debate hot topics, pass resolutions, make new commitments and engage with advocates on a wide variety of health issues impacting our world.

Children’s HeartLink staff traveled to Geneva to join 2024 WHA events, meet with governments and raise the profile of congenital heart disease (CHD). We urged governments to take action to ensure life-long care for all people living with CHD. We had a very successful week!  

Group photo of representatives from the NGOs who hosted the WHA side event

Highlights included:  

  • For the first time in Children’s HeartLink’s history we hosted a WHA side event in partnership with leading nonprofits in the congenital anomalies sector including Operation Smile, the Global Alliance for Rheumatic and Congenital Hearts, MiracleFeet, Jhpiego, the G4 Alliance and the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. Over 95% of all deaths among children with birth defects happen in low- and middle-income countries. This event elevated the great need for more resources and investment in accessing care for congenital anomalies like CHD. It included Dr. Anshu Banerjee, director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health for the World Health Organization and high-level government representatives including Dr. Alfredo Enrique Borrero Vega, former vice president of Ecuador, Dr. Wieslawa De Pawlikowski, former general director of International Affairs, Peruvian Ministry of Health and Ms. Pham Thi Minh Chau, deputy director general, International Cooperation Department at the Ministry of Health of Vietnam.

Watch our event here!



  • Cheering on the passage of the new Maternal and Child Health Resolution. A WHA resolution that for the first time calls out the need to address congenital anomalies in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2015, countries around the world committed to achieving SDG3 which aims to improve congenital anomalies care and prevention by 2030.  
  • Meeting with the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Namibia to the United Nations Office in Geneva to discuss championing a future WHA resolution that will focus on the needs of CHD patients. A collaboration in the making to further support the heart care all people with CHD deserve.

    Children’s HeartLink representatives meet with the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Namibia to the United Nations Office in Geneva
  • Speaking on a panel at the World Heart Summit highlighting Children’s HeartLink’s work to utilize social media to support advocacy campaigns that bring awareness to the ongoing initiatives and collaborations underway to improve heart care for children.
  • Organizing and facilitating a roundtable discussion with peer organizations who work with CHD and other congenital anomalies around shared advocacy goals and furthering commitments to launch a new congenital anomalies coalition later this year.  

Much of this work has come on the heels of sustained advocacy efforts over the past years, notably Children’s HeartLink’s leadership in launching a Call to Action on Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease at the 8th World Congress of Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery, hosting a United Nations General Assembly Side Event in September and our work to raise the profile of CHD for World Birth Defects Day. 

Bistra Zheleva, vice president of global strategy and advocacy at Children’s HeartLink, on the panel at the World Heart Summit

We are excited to see our advocacy efforts grow and thankful to all supporters who further our impact to create brighter futures for more children with heart disease. 

Interested in supporting advocacy efforts that aim to ensure all children around the world have access to high-quality heart care? Give now or reach out to learn more.  

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About Congenital Heart Disease
One out of 100 babies is born with congenital heart disease worldwide. Congenital heart disease is due to an abnormality in the structure of the heart. A child born in an area with access to pediatric heart care will likely survive and go on to live a healthy and active life. Sadly, for 9 in 10 of these children, they lack access to high quality care because it is not available or too expensive. Children’s HeartLink is working to change that by training in-country pediatric heart teams to treat children in Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam. 
About Children’s HeartLink
Children’s HeartLink saves children’s lives by transforming pediatric heart care in underserved parts of the world. The global nonprofit organization (NGO), partners medical volunteers from top teaching and research institutions with doctors, nurses and health care professionals in Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam to develop or improve pediatric cardiac care programs. Since 1969, the organization has reached more than 2 million children.