Africa: WHO Director-General Opening Remarks At the Member State Briefing On the Covid-19 Pandemic - 23 July 2020

press release

Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Thank you for joining us. Today we'll be hearing from Latvia and Sudan.

In accordance with paragraph 9 point 8 of the resolution on the COVID-19 response adopted at the World Health Assembly in May, we will also update you on WHO's work to accelerate the development and equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics through the ACT Accelerator.

Today, Dr Mariângela Simão, Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, will present on the allocation framework of the ACT Accelerator.

The resolution also calls on Member States, in paragraph 7.5, to ensure the continued functioning of health systems.

Early results from a WHO survey of 103 countries show that more than half have limited or suspended service delivery platforms for outpatient services, community-based care, and inpatient services due to disruptions from the pandemic.

The most frequently reported disruptions were in dental services, rehabilitation, routine immunization, diagnosis and treatment for noncommunicable diseases, family planning and contraception, and treatment for mental health disorders.

Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services are disrupted in at least 81 countries. Our projections are that a 10 percent decline in pregnancy-related and newborn health services could lead to as many as 168 thousand additional deaths per year.

Deaths from HIV, TB and malaria may increase by up to 10, 20 and 36 percent, respectively, in high burden settings.

Routine immunization service disruptions have been reported in two-thirds of the surveyed countries.

175 million children in 59 countries will miss their measles vaccination, putting us at risk of another major, deadly outbreak.

Food insecurity has increased dramatically and could lead to a 25 percent increase in wasting, affecting 10 million children.

The bottom line is that the impact of the pandemic will go far beyond the suffering caused by the virus itself, and will be felt for many years to come.

We have a shared responsibility to ensure essential services are maintained or restarted as soon as possible.

There is no question that the pandemic will set back progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the "triple billion" targets.

But we cannot use it as an excuse to abandon hope. On the contrary, we must use it as motivation to work harder than ever.

There will always be another emergency. But the problems of the world, and our work to prevent, prepare and respond to them continues.

This leads me to the next issue, an update of our workplan implementation within WHO.

At the start of the pandemic, we took the deliberate decision to have a balanced implementation of the workplan and also balanced distribution of workforce, in order not to undermine other programmes we are working on.

This was critical, so that we could continue to support Member States to maintain essential services and public health programmes, and to continue to focus on the range of priority areas we work on, so as not to lose the health gains we have made in recent decades.

We have just finished our review of the first 6 months, and we are pleased to report to you that things are progressing well.

At headquarters, we envisage a 90 to 95 percent implementation of our normative work, global leadership functions and advocacy.

We have also adapted our country support to the new operating model and environment.

We reviewed the same situation in the regions and the countries and although there are some delays in certain areas due to repurposing of staff, the intention is to stick to the commitment of the workplan and catch up before the end of the biennium.

I would like to reassure Member States and all donors that funding provided to WHO is well invested in all areas of work under the GPW13.

We are finalizing the Triple Billion Dashboard for all 194 countries, which will be used to support delivery and to consult with countries on their shares and projections towards the "triple billion" targets. The dashboard is now in trial and we will launch it officially.

And of course, we continue releasing new evidence-based guidance as the research evolves.

Our latest is on practical actions in cities to strengthen preparedness for the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

This provides local authorities, policy-makers and city leaders with a checklist to ensure that key areas have been covered.

We've also released a new risk assessment tool for mass gatherings that covers religious meetings, sporting events and more.

And we've updated our guidelines on precautions for infection prevention and control.

I want you to know that WHO is as committed as ever to serving all people to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.

Thank you again to Latvia and Sudan, thank you Ministers and other Member States for joining.

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