Sunday, August 14, 2022

WHO Director-General’s Opening Speech at the WHO Press Conference – 30 March 2022 – World

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

Today, the WHO releases our updated strategic readiness, readiness and response plan for COVID-19.

This is our third strategic plan for COVID-19, and it can and should be our last.

It sets out three possible scenarios for how the pandemic could develop this year.

Based on what we now know, the most likely scenario is that the virus continues to develop, but the severity of the disease it causes decreases over time as immunity increases due to vaccination and infection.

Periodic increases in cases and deaths can occur as immunity declines, which may require periodic reinforcement for vulnerable populations.

At best, we can see that less serious variants emerge, and boosters or new formulations of vaccines will not be needed.

In the worst case, a more virulent and highly transmissible variant emerges. Against this new threat, people’s protection against serious illness and death, whether from previous vaccination or infection, will rapidly decline.

To address this situation, the current vaccines will have to change significantly and make sure that they reach the people who are most vulnerable to serious diseases.

So how do we move forward and end the acute phase of this year’s pandemic?

It requires countries to invest in five core components:

First, supervision, laboratories and public health intelligence;

Second, vaccination, public health and social measures, and communities involved;

Third, clinical care for COVID-19, and resilient health systems;

Fourth, research and development, and equitable access to tools and supplies;

And fifth, coordination, as the response from an emergency mode transitions to long-term respiratory disease management.

We have all the tools we need to bring this pandemic under control: we can prevent masks, distance, hand hygiene and ventilation;

And we can save lives by ensuring that everyone has access to tests, treatments and vaccines.

Fair vaccination remains the most powerful tool we have to save lives.

The effort to vaccinate 70% of each country’s population remains essential to bring the pandemic under control, with priority given to health workers, the elderly and other at-risk groups.

I’m surprised that there are some in the global health community who consider the 70% target no longer relevant.

Many high- and middle-income countries have reached this target, and have seen a decoupling between cases and deaths.

Even while some high-income countries are now introducing fourth doses to their populations, one third of the world’s population still needs to receive a single dose, including 83% of Africa’s population.

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It’s not acceptable to me, and it should not be acceptable to anyone.

If the world’s rich enjoy the benefits of high vaccine coverage, why should not the world’s poor? Are some lives worth more than others?

Even as we continue to respond to the pandemic, the WHO is also introducing new measures to keep the world safe from future epidemics.

Today we introduce a new strategy to scale up genomic surveillance worldwide for pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential.

And tomorrow we launch a new global strategy for arboviruses – the family of viruses spread by mosquitoes that include Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya and Yellow Fever, and which pose a threat to more than half of the world’s population.

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Now to Ukraine.

The WHO continues to work with local and international partners to deliver medical supplies to the hardest hit areas across Ukraine.

The WHO has now supplied about 160 metric tons of supplies.

We continue to insist on guarantees of safe passage to supply supplies to Mariupol and other besieged cities.

We have also issued guidelines for donations, including a list of critical supplies that urgently need support.

We are furious that attacks on health care continue.

Since the beginning of the Russian Federation’s invasion, there have been 82 attacks on health care, resulting in at least 72 deaths and 43 injuries, including patients and health workers.

Attacks on health care are a violation of international humanitarian law, and must be stopped immediately.

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Well, in Afghanistan.

In Qatar, I am taking part in two meetings this week that seek to alleviate the suffering of the people of Afghanistan.

Yesterday, I joined a meeting convened by WHO and UNICEF to discuss how to address Afghanistan’s health needs.

And tomorrow I will address a high-level pledge opportunity on supporting the humanitarian response in Afghanistan.

More than 24 million people will need humanitarian aid this year.

They face displacement, drought, food insecurity and malnutrition, COVID-19, and many other health challenges.

Last year’s conflict led to major disruption of essential health services, and a significant exodus of health workers.

Women and girls are particularly at risk – from a lack of access to health services, and a lack of access to education.

Last week’s decision to ban girls from school is very worrying.

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WHO stays on the ground, and we remain committed to protecting and promoting the health of the people of Afghanistan.

We need donors to do the same. Investing in the health and education of Afghanistan is an investment in the future of people who have suffered so much.

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And now to Ethiopia.

We welcome last week’s declaration of a humanitarian ceasefire in Tigray, and we hope it will lead to rapid recovery of public services, including electricity, telecommunications, banking and healthcare.

However, a week has passed since the ceasefire was announced, but no food has yet been allowed in Tigray. Every hour makes a difference when people are starving to death.

No food has reached Tigray since mid-December, and almost no fuel has been delivered since August last year.

The siege of 6 million people in Tigray by Eritrean and Ethiopian forces for more than 500 days is one of the longest in modern history.

Maintaining the WHO’s response to all these emergencies, from the COVID-19 pandemic to Ukraine, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and more, requires the generosity of donors.

Under WHO’s Global Health Emergency Appeal for 2022, we need $ 2.7 billion to save lives and alleviate suffering around the world.

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Finally, let me end with some good news.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of each country having a reliable supply of quality-assured and safe medicines and vaccines, backed by a strong national regulator.

Yesterday, the WHO approved Egypt and Nigeria’s regulatory authorities for medical products as at maturity level 3.

This means that these regulators perform well against a set of more than 260 indicators, from the approval of medicines and vaccines, to testing, market surveillance and the ability to detect adverse events.

Egypt and Nigeria join Ghana and Tanzania because they have stable and well-functioning regulatory systems in Africa, and there are several other regulators that are currently being reviewed in all regions.

Reaching this level requires significant investment and we thank the governments that are in talks with the WHO for their commitment, including Singapore, which was approved as Maturity Level 4 last month.

These assessments are typical of much of the WHO’s work – they do not receive much news, but they do make a massive difference to a country’s ability to deliver medical products that are safe, effective, and meet international quality standards. .

Christian, back to you.

Nation World News Desk
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