Africa: WHO Director-General's Opening Remarks at the Media Briefing on COVID-19 - 15 April 2020

announcement

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, wherever you are.

When the nations of the world met to form the United Nations in 1945, one of the first things they discussed was establishing an organization to protect and promote the health of the world’s people.

They expressed that desire in the constitution of WHO, which says that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

That creed remains our vision today.

The United States of America has been a longstanding and generous friend to WHO, and we hope it will continue to be so.

We regret the decision of the President of the United States to order a halt in funding to the World Health Organization.

With support from the people and government of the United States, WHO works to improve the health of many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

WHO is not only fighting COVID-19. We’re also working to address polio, measles, malaria, Ebola, HIV, tuberculosis, malnutrition, cancer, diabetes, mental health and many other diseases and conditions.

We also work with countries to strengthen health systems and improve access to life-saving health services.

WHO is reviewing the impact on our work of any withdrawal of U.S. funding and will work with our partners to fill any financial gaps we face and to ensure our work continues uninterrupted.

Our commitment to public health, science and to serving all the people of the world without fear or favour remains absolute.

Our mission and mandate are to work with all nations equally, without regard to the size of their populations or economies.

COVID-19 does not discriminate between rich nations and poor, large nations and small. It does not discriminate between nationalities, ethnicities or ideologies.

Neither do we. This is a time for all of us to be united in our common struggle against a common threat – a dangerous enemy.

When we are divided, the virus exploits the cracks between us.

We are committed to serving the world’s people, and to accountability for the resources with which we are entrusted.

In due course, WHO’s performance in tackling this pandemic will be reviewed by WHO’s Member States and the independent bodies that are in place to ensure transparency and accountability. This is part of the usual process put in place by our Member States.

No doubt, areas for improvement will be identified and there will be lessons for all of us to learn.

But for now, our focus – my focus – is on stopping this virus and saving lives.

WHO is grateful to the many nations, organizations and individuals who have expressed their support and commitment to WHO in recent days, including their financial commitment.

We welcome this demonstration of global solidarity, because solidarity is the rule of the game to defeat COVID-19.

WHO is getting on with the job.

We are continuing to study this virus every moment of every day, we are learning from many countries about what works, and we are sharing that information with the world.

There are more than 1.5 million enrolments in WHO’s online courses through OpenWHO.org, and we will continue to expand this platform to train many more millions so we can fight COVID effectively.

Today we launched a new course for health workers on how to put on and remove personal protective equipment.

Every day we bring together thousands of clinicians, epidemiologists, educators, researchers, lab technicians, infection prevention specialists and others to exchange knowledge on COVID-19.

Our technical guidance brings together the most up-to-date evidence for health ministers, health workers and individuals.

Yesterday I had the honour of speaking to heads of state and government from the 13 ASEAN-plus-three nations.

It was inspiring to hear their experiences, and their commitment to working together to secure a shared future.

As a result of their experience with SARS and avian influenza, these countries have put in place measures and systems that are now helping them to detect and respond to COVID-19.

We’re also continuing to work with partners all over the world to accelerate research and development.

More than 90 countries have joined or have expressed interest in joining the Solidarity Trial, and more than 900 patients have now been enrolled, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of four drugs and drug combinations.

Three vaccines have already started clinical trials, more than 70 others are in development, and we’re working with partners to accelerate the development, production and distribution of vaccines.

In addition to the Solidarity Trial, I am glad to say that WHO has convened groups of clinicians to look at the impact of corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs on treatment outcomes.

Specifically, we are looking at oxygen use and ventilation strategies in patients. Any intervention that reduces the need for ventilation and improves outcomes for critically ill patients is important – especially in low-resource settings, to save lives.

Last week I announced the United Nations Supply Chain Task Force, to scale up the distribution of essential medical equipment.

Yesterday the first United Nations Solidarity Flight took off, transporting personal protective equipment, ventilators and lab supplies to many countries across Africa.

The Solidarity Flight is part of a massive effort to ship lifesaving medical supplies to 95 countries across the globe, in conjunction with the World Food Programme and other agencies including Unicef, the Global Fund, Gavi, and the United Nations Department of Operational Support, Unitaid and others.

Whether it is by land, sea or air, WHO staff are working around the clock to deliver for health workers and communities everywhere.

I would like to thank the African Union, the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Ethiopia, the Jack Ma Foundation and all our partners for their solidarity with African countries at this critical moment in history. I would like to thank President Ramaphosa and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki, for their leadership.

The Solidarity Response Fund has now generated almost US$150 million from 240,000 individuals and organizations.

This Saturday, some of the biggest names in music are coming together for the One World: Together at Home concert, to generate further funds for the Solidarity Response Fund.

But not just to raise funds, to bring the world together, because we’re one world, one humanity fighting a common enemy. I thank Lady Gaga, Global Citizen and all that are collaborating to put this concert together.

We will continue to work with every country and every partner, to serve the people of the world, with a relentless commitment to science, solutions and solidarity.

Since the beginning, WHO has been fighting the pandemic with every ounce of our soul and spirit. We will continue to do that until the end. That’s our commitment to the whole world.

I thank you.

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