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Geneva, Apr 29 (Canadian-Media): International health experts will convene on Thursday to evaluate the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and advise on updated recommendations, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday during his latest virtual press conference from Geneva, UN reports said.
The Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan displays a message of hope as the coronavirus continues to kill people in New York City. Image credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained that the Emergency Committee meeting will mark three months since members agreed that the new coronavirus disease was an international global health emergency.
“In the three months since the Emergency Committee last met, WHO has worked day in, day out to sound the alarm, support countries and save lives”, he said.
The Emergency Committee consists of 15 independent experts from across the world brought together under a treaty known as the International Health Regulations (IHR), which guides global health response.
COVID-19 first emerged in Wuhan, China, and at the time of its last meeting, there were just over 80 cases outside the country, and no deaths. The global caseload has now approached nearly three million, and nearly 205,000 deaths.
'We sounded the alarm early’
Tedros outlined WHO’s actions starting from 31 December 2019, when it first learned about the “pneumonia of unknown cause”, through to his pronouncement of the global health emergency on 30 January, which was based on the Emergency Committee’s advice.
The rationale for providing the timeline was “to be clear about what WHO knew, and what we did”, he said.
“From the beginning, WHO has acted quickly and decisively to respond and to warn the world. We sounded the alarm early, and we sounded it often”, he told journalists.
“We said repeatedly that the world had a window of opportunity to prepare and to prevent widespread community transmission.”
After learning about the cluster of pneumonia cases, WHO sought more information from China on 1 January. A day later, it informed the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), which includes more than 260 institutions in over 70 countries.
China came back to WHO through a face-to-face meeting in Beijing on 3 January, and the UN agency subsequently reported the unusual pneumonia cases on Twitter. Tedros added that no deaths were reported at that stage.
Two days later, WHO shared detailed technical information, including precautionary advice to its 194 Member States and IHR focal points, with guidance on the basis that there could be human-to-human transmission of the new virus.
Information was also published for use by the scientific and public health communities, as well as the global media.
Tedros detailed additional WHO actions taken over this period, such as guidance on how to detect, test and manage cases, and a checklist for countries to help assess their capacities for detection and response. WHO also published the first instructions for making diagnostic kits after China shared the genetic sequence of the virus.
Tedros said that on 14 January, WHO tweeted reports from China indicating that authorities there had found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus.
“This is in line with our practice of reporting to the world, information that countries report to us. We post country reports as is”, he explained.
“However, earlier the same day, WHO held a press briefing at which we said that, based on our past experience with coronaviruses, human-to-human transmission was likely. Our senior experts participated in that press conference, and that news was carried by mainstream media.”
Additionally, WHO staff visited Wuhan on 20 and 21 January, and reported that evidence suggested human-to-human transmission was occurring.
Experts divided and Emergency Committee reconvened
Tedros convened the Emergency Committee over 22 and 23 January. As members were divided over whether WHO should declare a global public health emergency, they asked to meet again within 10 days.
During this period, Tedros and other senior WHO staff travelled to Beijing where they met with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders to learn more about the national response there, and to offer assistance.
It was agreed that an international team of scientists should travel to the country, consisting of experts from China, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Nigeria, the Russian Federation, Singapore and the United States of America.
Tedros reconvened the Emergency Committee on 30 January, following which he declared that the new coronavirus constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
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Geneva, Apr 28 (Canadian-Media): A major UN-led initiative is under way to secure supplies of key medical equipment for 135 low to medium-income countries facing down the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday, UN reports said.
With support from UNDP, community workers in Bangladesh are working on the ground distributing hygiene packages and promoting coronavirus prevention awareness. Image credit: UNDP/Fahad Kaizer
The COVID-19 taskforce initiative follows a direct request to WHO from UN Secretary-General António Guterres to coordinate the Organization’s response to the new coronavirus.
Demand 200 times greater than normal
It comes amid unprecedented global shortages of critical supplies, skyrocketing prices and export bans, said Paul Molinaro, Chief, Operations Support and Logistics, WHO Health Emergencies Programme.
“The demand has obviously increased in those markets 100 or 200 times normal demand”, he told journalists via video conference. “On the supply side we saw a lot of shutdowns in manufacturing, we saw a lot of export controls, we saw the international air transport system on which we’re quite dependent for the movement of cargo, gradually shut down, so we’re at the point where we need to look for solutions to this.”
As part of the collective effort by the UN and public and private partners, a dedicated “COVID-19 Supply Portal” is set to launch within days, offering countries the opportunity to submit supply requests via a single platform.
This will enable the humanitarian supply chain system “to plan and coordinate allocation of critical supplies” to those 135 countries deemed to be most vulnerable, WHO said in a statement: “We need to streamline demand at country level to really look at the highest priority and to try and get the numbers to something manageable and coordinated,” Mr Molinaro said, highlighting the first of the initiative’s four priorities.
“Step two is collaborative procurement amongst ourselves in the UN and some of our key partners in approaching the market together. This gives us a bigger voice, particularly in a constrained market with a lot of intense competition”, he added.
“The third part is allocation process based on vulnerabilities and gaps and on critical needs. And then the fourth step – in light of difficulties with transportation – is to create a unified transport system, and this is something our partners are currently doing, particularly WFP.”
Focus moves to weaker health systems
Health workers in Guyana learn how to safely dress in personal protective equipment (PPE)., by PAHO/WHO GuyanaAfter raising the alarm earlier this year about the health threat posed by the new coronavirus that emerged in central China in December, the WHO announced that it was stepping up support to countries with beleaguered public health systems.
To date, it has distributed 1.1 million tests to 129 countries, and “we have another 1.5 million on the way”, Mr Molinaro said, noeting that the new supply chain initiative should secure a further nine million tests, which would be allocated as needed.
In addition, partner agency UNICEF (the UN Children’s Fund) has shipped supplies to 44 countries including 1.2 million surgical masks, more than 320,000 respirators, 6.4 million surgical gloves and over 250,000 gowns. UNICEF has also shipped oxygen concentrators, basic surgical equipment, stethoscopes, medication and nutrition to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), along with personal protective equipment to Iran and Venezuela, and a 50-bed COVID-19 isolation and treatment unit to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
According to WHO, the taskforce aims to procure 75 million face masks, 50 million respirators, 28 million surgical gloves, 10 million face shields and three million goggles for distribution. Discussions are also ongoing with the Jack Ma Foundation for 100 million surgical masks and one million respirators, WHO said in a statement.
Border closures affecting aid deliveries
ID verification at the Kakuma Camp in Kenya, by WFP/Florence LanyeroThe positive development comes amid concerns about border closures or delays which are already impacting aid deliveries, including at the border between Uganda and Kenya, WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said: “We are seeing long queues of trucks waiting, because…some governments like Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda are taking the temperature of the truck drivers; this slows the delivery of food in the country.”
There are also concerns that frontier delays and protective trade measures may hamper life-saving immunization work. “There’s enormous challenges and the longer we continue to face this situation, it’s clear there are going to be repercussions outside the COVID response,” said Mr Molinaro. “We already see UNICEF vaccine shipments which are highly dependent on commercial air cargo, we do see those having been disrupted in the month of May - in the month of April sorry- if this continues into May, there will be gaps in routine immunisation and also in campaigns against outbreaks of other diseases.”
Asked about distribution of supplies to Latin American countries, the WHO official replied that although there may have been some “difficulties…in the beginning” when the caseload wasn’t high, “the situation has changed and as mentioned, we’re in the process of now planning that the next acquisitions and batch volumes we get, at least in PPE, will be making their way in that direction, certainly.”
Moving forward, the COVID-19 taskforce’s strategy is to “speak up for those countries that don’t have the means to access life-saving supplies”, WHO said.
Its partners include UN agencies, The Global Fund, the World Bank, and other partners.
In a related development, the World Food Programme (WFP) issued an alert about a potentially massive spike in global food insecurity in East African nations and the Horn of Africa, as a direct result of the pandemic.
“WFP estimates that 20 million people are now food insecure in many countries in the region. Ethiopia, South Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti and Eritrea,” said WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs. “We have done projections about the situation there, about the number of food insecure people, and this number is likely to increase to 34 million up to 41 million during the next three months, due to the social-economic impact of COVID-19.”
#UN; #GlobalRecession; #Covid19ChidDeath; #EducationOnLockdown; #childNutrition
Geneva, Apr 18 (Canadian-Media): The looming global recession resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic could cause hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths this year, effectively reversing recent gains in reducing infant mortality, a new UN report issued on Thursday has revealed.
Image credit: UNICEF
In a statement on the new findings, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for urgent action to support the world’s children amid the universal crisis.
“Thankfully, children have so far been largely spared from the most severe symptoms of the disease. But their lives are being totally upended”, he said.
“I appeal to families everywhere, and leaders at all levels: protect our children.”
The report finds that the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, together with measures to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus, could potentially be catastrophic for millions of children worldwide.
It details how the crisis is putting young lives at risk in key areas that include education, food, safety and health.
Education on lockdown
Practically all students worldwide are now out of school because of the pandemic.
Nearly 190 countries have imposed school closures, affecting 1.5 billion children and young people.
A playground at an elementary school in Ridgefield, in the US state of Connecticut, sits empty following temporary school closures.The report stated that the losses in learning today, and in their future development, are hard to fathom.
“Some schools are offering distance learning, but this is not available to all”, the Secretary-General said, adding that children in countries with slow and expensive Internet services are severely disadvantaged.
Millions missing out on school meals
Child nutrition is another vital concern, according to the report.
The UN chief recalled that even before the pandemic, childhood malnutrition and stunting were at unacceptable levels.
With classrooms shuttered, the nearly 310 million children worldwide who rely on school meals are missing out on this daily dose of nutrition.
Meanwhile, hastily implemented lockdown measures risk disrupting food supply chains and local markets, posing a potentially grave threat to food access.
Safety at home and online
Sixty per cent of all children worldwide are living in countries that have implemented full or partial lockdowns, according to the report.
As the crisis deepens, family stress-levels also are rising, and children confined at home are both victims and witnesses of domestic violence and abuse.
School closures also mean the loss of what the UN chief called “an important early warning mechanism” for incidents.
“There is also a danger that girls will drop out of school, leading to an increase in teenage pregnancies”, he added.
Earlier this week, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and partners reported that with more children relying on technology for learning and socializing, the risk of online abuse and exploitation is rising.
The Secretary-General underlined the special responsibility social media companies have in ensuring child protection online.
Child health a casualty
Though coronavirus infection rates so far have been “far milder” among children, the report found the broader effects of the crisis on child health are significant.
Hospitals and health facilities overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients are making it difficult for children to access standard care.
Families out of work, or otherwise experiencing reduced incomes, are forced to cut back on essential health and food expenditures, which particularly affects children, women and breastfeeding mothers.
Polio vaccination campaigns have ceased, thus setting back progress in eradicating the disease in its last two strongholds: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Additionally, 23 countries have suspended measles immunization campaigns targeting nearly 80 million children.
“With the global recession gathering pace, there could be hundreds of thousands of additional child deaths in 2020”, the Secretary-General warned.
This scenario would effectively reverse progress made in reducing infant mortality over the past two to three years.
“And this alarming figure does not even take into account services disrupted due to the crisis – it only reflects the current relationship between economies and mortality, so is likely an under-estimate of the impact,” said the report.
Action for children
While the COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented, it is also an opportunity for “unprecedented international solidarity” for children and humanity.
Governments are urged to take steps to counter the unintended effects on children by rolling out or expanding social assistance to families, securing food supply chains and local food markets, and prioritizing the continuity of services such as schooling, nutrition programmes, and maternal and newborn care.
The report further recommends specific protections for the most vulnerable children, such as migrants, refugees, minorities, children with disabilities, and those living in slums.
Standard strategies for physical distancing and lockdowns should be adapted in places such as low-income settings in urban areas, refugee camps and conflict zones.
The report underlined that the UN is working across all settings and stands ready to support countries striving to invest in the world’s youngest generation.
Said the Secretary-General: “With the pandemic placing so many of the world’s children in jeopardy, I reiterate my urgent appeal: let us protect our children and safeguard their well-being.”
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Geneva, Apr 18 (Canadian-Media): The storm clouds of COVID-19 still hang heavily over Europe, a senior World Health Organization (WHO) expert said on Thursday, with reported cases in the last 10 days alone, doubling to nearly 1 million. The continent now accounts for 10 per cent of the global total, UN reports said.
Sadly, over 84,000 people in Europe have lost their lives to the virus”, said Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, during a briefing from the Danish capital, Copenhagen.
Of the 10 countries in the region with the highest numbers of cases, there have been some optimistic signs, with numbers declining in Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland in recent weeks. However, these gains are tempered by sustained – even increased – incidence in the United Kingdom, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian Federation.
Next few weeks critical “The next few weeks will be critical for Europe,” he said. “Make no mistake, despite this spring weather, we remain in the midst of a storm.” It is imperative that people not let down their guard.
As physical distancing and lockdowns to slow and stop COVID-19 transmission are affecting lives and livelihoods, he said Governments and health authorities must come up with answers to identify when, under what conditions and how to consider a safe transition through a gradual shift in measures.
‘Alarming and tragic’ caseload - WHO’s Tedros Providing a global perspective, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized that almost 2 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported to the world health body. More than 123,000 have died, an “alarming and tragic” increase from when he briefed Missions last week.
He outlined WHO’s new strategy update for countries as they consider lifting social and economic restrictions. Extreme caution must be taken. “If done too quickly, we risk a resurgence that could be even worse than our present situation”, he warned.
Transmission control, fundamental First and foremost, transmission must be controlled. Health system capacities should be in place to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact.
Further, he said outbreak risks must be minimized in special settings, such health facilities and nursing homes, and preventive measures put in place for workplaces, schools and other places where it is essential for people to go. It is also vital that importation risks be managed and that communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the “new norm”.
In the meantime, WHO last week launched the United Nations Supply Chain Task Force, with the World Food Programme (WFP) and other partners – an emergency supply chain designed to cover more than 30 per cent of the world’s needs in the acute phase of the pandemic. It will have hubs in eight countries and deploy 16 Boeing 747s and medium-sized cargo aircraft, plus passenger planes.
He said millions of supplies will be shipped each month, including personal protective gear, respirators, lab equipment and oxygen, as well as medical and technical staff. The first Solidarity Flight took off on 14 April.
Noting that WFP estimates $280 million will be needed to cover the costs of storing and moving supplies, he said the costs of procuring supplies will be much greater and urged donors to support this vitally important system.
WHO policy on China’s wet markets, mischaracterized He pushed back on inaccurate media reports characterizing the World Health Organization’s view on the re-opening of wet markets in China. The agency’s position remains that all sectors affected by COVID-19 — including food markets in China and around the world – must ensure strong regulatory systems, high standards of cleanliness, hygiene and safety once they are in a position to gradually resume normal activities.
In addition, he said Governments should rigorously enforce bans on the sale of wildlife, as well as food safety and hygiene regulations to ensure that food sold in markets is safe.
WHO has provided guidance and support to countries on safe and healthy markets - including for food businesses on COVID-19 and on food safety and live animal markets. The agency has been working closely with the World Organization for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) since the start of the outbreak, to prevent zoonotic diseases in all concerned sectors, added Tedros.
Tensions spill over into violence over physical distancing Speaking broadly on the challenges ahead, the Ethiopian former health minister, and highly qualified research scientist, voiced concern that violence reportedly has erupted as a result of physical distancing restrictions.
Meanwhile, schools have closed for an estimated 1.4 billion children. And there have been four new cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 10 April, after 54 days without a new case.
Nonetheless, WHO is committed to working with all countries to find tailored solutions to stop transmission, he said, while ensuring essential health services continue and mitigating the social and economic impacts of the pandemic. “Only by working together will we bring this pandemic under control”, he assured.
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Geneva, Apr 18 (Canadian-Media): This weekend’s “One World: Together At Home” virtual global special will be a “love letter to the world” and a salute to health workers on the front lines of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, pop superstar Lady Gaga said on Friday.
One World: Together At Home. Image credit: Twitter handle
Dozens of the world’s top entertainers have signed up for the six-hour extravaganza that will livestream on social media platforms from 1800 GMT (UTC) on Saturday, to be followed by a two-hour telecast via traditional broadcasters.
Produced by Global Citizen, with Lady Gaga curating, “One World: Together At Home” is aiming to raise funds for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund to buy personal protective equipment and other supplies for countries that need them most.
“This fight against COVID-19 is one that the whole world will fight together,” said Lady Gaga, speaking via video-teleconference at a World Health Organization (WHO) press briefing in Geneva.
Rolling Stones join once-in-a-generation line-up
Revealing that the Rolling Stones will be joining the glittering line-up, she described the event as “a love letter to the world” and an appeal to the private sector and philanthropists to contribute generously to the Fund.
“It is a letter to our doctors, a love letter to our nurses and other healthcare professionals who are risking their own lives for the sake of others…We celebrate your bravery and your heroism.”
Funds funnelled worldwide
Hugh Evans, Chief Executive Officer of Global Citizen, said the funds that will be raised will be funnelled to local charities towards providing personal protective equipment to community health workers throughout the world.
The new coronavirus pandemic shows why international cooperation is more important than ever, he said, adding that “a virus anywhere can lead to a virus everywhere”, and that global health systems must be strengthened to avert future pandemics. “If we all do our part, we can weather this storm,” he said.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the Fund has so far generated $150 million from individuals, corporations and foundations – prompting Lady Gaga to add: “Let’s keep the momentum going. What we see tomorrow will not be the end… Let’s remind each other that this is a kind world.”
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Germany, Apr 17 (Canadian-Media): The current protocol for immediately placing COVID-19 patients with alarmingly low levels of oxygen on mechanical ventilators, a standard practice for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), actually could cause harm to some COVID-19 patients, said a world-renowned Italian intensive care specialist Luciano Gattinoni in his paper published this week in the journal Intensive Care Medicine, media reports said.
Ventilator. Image credit: Wikipedia
"A standard treatment cannot be applied to an un-standard disease," said Gattinoni.
Similar concerns have been expressed by doctors in New York state and elsewhere about putting patients on ventilators too soon and with the pressure too high.
Many doctors have begun to delay their use, after a death rate of 80 percent for people who go on ventilator was reported by New York authorities.
Gattinoni said patients with normal looking lungs but low oxygen are at risk of lung injury from the ventilators, where pressure from the air damages the thin air sacs that exchange oxygen with the blood.
In the early 1980s Gattinoni gained recognition for placing patients with certain respiratory problems in prone position, on their stomachs, to improve their oxygenation.
Although, this technique was first met with ridicule, it soon began to be widely adopted.
Gattinoni's paper was called "a game changer" by Marco Garrone, an emergency doctor at the Mauriziano Hospital in Turin, Italy.
"We started with a one-size-fits-all attitude, which didn't pay off," Garrone said of the practice of putting patients on ventilators right away, only to see their conditions deteriorate. "Now we try to delay intubation as much as possible."
This has led Garrone, emergency department to use non-invasive ventilation — different ways of getting oxygen into patients' lungs without force, such as a mask or a nasal cannula.
This helps people in the early stages of the disease to inhale enough oxygen without damaging their lungs.
However, the head of critical care at Toronto's University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital, warns against drawing any firm conclusions from Gattinoni's paper.
Niall Ferguson, site-lead at Toronto General Hospital, also says without any data to back it up, it should be recognized at this point, as mostly a theory.
Ferguson also agrees that for doctors, less experienced with the the use of ventilators are challenged, when pulled into a crisis situation.
Garrone said it's when ICU units get overwhelmed that the risk of misuse of ventilators is highest.
"I think there is a balance to be had between finding something that's simple and widely applicable versus trying to still personalize things for each patient," said Ferguson.
#UN; #USFundingWithdrawal; #InternationalSolidarity; #PhysicalDistancing; #Covid19Pandemic;
Geneva, Apr 15 (Canadian-Media): The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday upheld the importance of international solidarity in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic: a “dangerous enemy” to all humanity.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus briefs virtually on the COVID-19 pandemic in Geneva. Image credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was speaking to journalists one day after the United States announced that it was cutting funding to the UN health agency, pending a review of how the agency responded to the initial outbreak in China that first surfaced at the very end of December.
“The United States of America has been a longstanding and generous friend to WHO, and we hope it will continue to be so”, he said.
“We regret the decision of the President of the United States to order a halt in funding to the World Health Organization”.
Tedros underlined the agency’s commitment to serving the world’s people, but also to accountability for the use of its resources.
“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”, he stated.
In the interim, WHO is reviewing the impact the funding withdrawal will have on its operations.
The agency has begun working with partners to fill any resulting financial gaps, to ensure that its activities can continue uninterrupted.
Tedros upheld WHO’s fundamental and founding commitment to public health and to science, and its mandate to work with all nations on equal terms.
“COVID-19 does not discriminate between rich nations and poor, large nations and small. It does not discriminate between nationalities, ethnicities or ideologies”, he said.
“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”.
Solidarity on the ground and in the air
Research continues into medicines to treat the new coronavirus disease, Tedros said, in an update on the “Solidarity Trial” launched on 18 March.
So far, more than 90 countries have either joined or expressed interest in the initiative to compare the effectiveness of four treatment options, with more than 900 patients enrolled.
“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”, said Tedros.
WHO has also convened groups of clinicians to study the impact of corticosteroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs on treatment outcomes.
“Specifically, we are looking at oxygen use and ventilation strategies in patients”, he said, adding that “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”
The health agency chief also reported on the first UN Solidarity Flights which on Tuesday transported personal protective equipment, ventilators and other lifesaving medical supplies to countries across Africa.
It is part of what he described as “a massive effort” to deliver these items to 95 countries worldwide, in conjunction with fellow UN agencies and other partners such as the Global Fund and the vaccine alliance, GAVI.
Said Tedros: “Whether it is by land, sea or air, WHO staff are working around the clock to deliver for health workers and communities everywhere”.
Staying safe, social and sane
With millions now forced to stay at home to avert further spread of the new coronavirus, WHO officials have reminded people worldwide of the value of remaining in contact with their families and friends.
“There is no doubt that restrictive measures, stay-at-home orders, restriction of movement, have been quite isolating for people, and all the more isolating
There's no lockdown on laughter -- Dr. Maria van Kerkhove, WHO, for people who are already isolated or vulnerable”, said Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director, in response to a journalist’s question about mental health during the pandemic.
Dr. Ryan said like the rest of the world, WHO wants to do away with “these more draconian lockdowns”, which will require governments to step up investment in areas such as public health infrastructure and community education.
Dr. Maria van Kerhkove of WHO’s Emerging Diseases and Zoonoses Unit, recalled that the agency has replaced the expression “social distancing” with “physical distancing” to emphasize the importance of human contact.
She provided ways people can mind their mental health at this time, such as staying physically active, meditating, and taking time for themselves.
“There’s no lockdown on laughter; there’s no lockdown on talking to your family and finding ways to connect,” she said.
#UN; #Africa; #Covid19Pandemic; #IMF; #LearningPlatformForChildren
Geneva, Apr 15 (Canadian-Media): From procuring test kits to promoting debt relief, the UN will stand in solidarity with Africa as it braces against the unprecedented economic, social and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary-General António Guterres pledged on Wednesday.
An internally displaced woman voluntarily returning to her home in Bentiu, South Sudan, is being checked for fever. Image credit: UN Photo: Isaac Billy
“The crisis has wide-ranging implications”, said the UN Chief, delivering remarks at a meeting with leaders of the African Group of countries on Wednesday. “This is in no way of Africa’s making. But as with the climate crisis, the African continent could end up suffering the greatest impacts.”
Emphasizing the importance of solidarity to combat the pandemic, he praised Africa’s swift drafting of a coordinated, comprehensive COVID-19 strategy as a demonstration of the continent’s commitment to define its own development, including the high value it places on regional cooperation and multilateralism.
‘Africa will not be spared’
According to the International Monetary Fund’s latest Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa, COVID-19 is likely to cause an acute economic crisis on a continent that has often lagged behind in development, threatening to reverse hard-won gains and recent momentum.
The IMF report projects that the region’s economic growth will shrink by an unprecedented 1.6 per cent in 2020 amid tighter financial conditions, a sharp decline in key export prices and severe disruptions to economic activity linked to the pandemic.
“Sub-Saharan Africa will not be spared”, said Abebe Aemro Selassie, Director of the IMF’s African Department. “All indications are that the COVID-19 pandemic will exact a heavy human toll.”
Against that backdrop, the IMF is urging African countries and their partners to boost health spending and provide social transfers to those whose livelihoods are being upended. Support from international development partners – including debt relief for the most vulnerable countries – will be crucial.
Governments take a lead In line with the continent’s strategy, a range of responses are already in place across African nations, many drawing from the painful lessons learned from recent Ebola outbreaks.
In Uganda, the Government is supporting businesses by rescheduling social security contributions. Namibian authorities are offering emergency income grants to workers who have lost jobs.
In Cabo Verde, new cash transfers and food assistance are available. Egypt is among those countries that have reduced or postponed the collection of taxes.
At the regional level, the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working to establish a special anti-COVID-19 response fund and appoint special envoys to mobilize international economic support.
Robust support, from training to testing
Personnel from across the UN system are building and complementing Africa’s capacity to combat the pandemic.
Staff in peacekeeping and political missions are working to build awareness, including through mass community sensitization campaigns, trainings for civil servants and radio programs.
In South Africa, the UN Country Team is helping to build a new learning platform for children whose schools are closed. In Nigeria, the team has contributed $2 million to procure essential medical supplies, including 50 ventilators, 30,000 test kits and personal protective equipment.
Among a range of ongoing efforts, the UN Economic Commission for Africa is working with Governments in support of a debt relief package.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has dramatically expanded early detection capacity across the continent, raising the number of countries able to test for COVID-19, from two at the beginning of the outbreak, to 47 today.
Now is ‘not the time’ to reduce funding for the World Health Organization in COVID-19 fight, urges Guterres
Geneva, Apr 14 (Canadian-Media): Now is a time for unity in the global battle to push the COVID-19 pandemic into reverse, not a time to cut the resources of the World Health Organization (WHO), which is spearheading and coordinating the global body’s efforts, said UN chief António Guterres, on Tuesday.
António Guterres. Image credit: Twitter
“As I said on 8 April, the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most dangerous challenges this world has faced in our lifetime. It is above all a human crisis with severe health and socio-economic consequences”, he added.
The UN chief’s statement, came as the President of the United States, Donald Trump, announced early on Tuesday evening that he was halting funding for the UN health agency, pending a review of its response to the initial outbreak.
WHO, with thousands of its staff aiding and assisting operations across the world to limit the transmission of the coronavirus, “is on the front lines, supporting Member States and their societies, especially the most vulnerable among them, with guidance, training, equipment and concrete life-saving services”, said the Secretary-General.
“It is my belief that the World Health Organization must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against COVID-19.”
Reiterating the argument which he made last week, the UN chief noted that given the unprecedented nature of COVID-19 and the subsequent global response that was needed to defeat it, “it is possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities.
Once we have finally turned the page on this epidemic, there must be a time to look back fully to understand how such a disease emerged and spread its devastation so quickly across the globe, and how all those involved reacted to the crisis.”
The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future”, Mr. Guterres added. “But now is not that time.”
Resources must be maintained
Until then, “it also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus.”
Mr. Guterres made it clear that unity must prevail, so that the international community can work together, “in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.”
Ever since the disease emerged in Wuhan, China, and the first case of a pneumonia “of unknown cause” was reported to WHO on 31 December last year, the agency has been working 24/7 to analyze data, provide advice, coordinate with partners, and help countries prepare. The outbreak was declared a Public Heath Emergency of International Concern, a month later.
See our piece here, on five of the key ways that the agency has been leading the global response.
As of Tuesday, there are more than 1.8 million confirmed cases, according to WHO figures, with more than 117,000 confirmed deaths, and 213 countries, areas or territories with cases of the new coronavirus.
#WHO; #CostEffectiveTreatment; #Chagas; #TropicalIllness; #NeglectedTropicalDiseases
Geneva, Apr 14 (Canadian-Media): Cost-effective interventions such as blood screening, as well as improved hygiene and food safety, could save millions from what the World Health Organization (WHO) has described as a “silent and silenced disease” that mainly affects poor people, UN reports said.
Triatomine bugs, found mainly in Latin American and southern USA, are known to cause Chagas disease. Image credit: CDC/David Snyder
For the first time, the international community is on Tuesday celebrating World Chagas Disease Day to raise awareness of this neglected and entirely treatable tropical disease.
“The only way to keep people safe from Chagas disease is to stop its transmission. It’s known as a silent disease because it can live quietly in the body until the late stages when it may cause fatal cardiac damage. But early diagnosis and treatment can make a difference”, said WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a video message for the day.
‘Kissing bug’ comes out at night
Chagas disease is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi. It is named after Dr. Carlos Ribeiro Justiniano Chagas, the Brazilian doctor who diagnosed the first case on 14 April 1909.
Transmission can happen in several ways, though mainly through an insect known as the triatomine bug -- popularly known as the “kissing bug” -- which can carry the parasite.
The bugs typically live in the walls of a home or in other structures such as chicken coops, animal pens and warehouses. They normally are active at night, when they feed on the blood of humans or animals by biting exposed skin, such as the face, which is how they got their nickname.
Infection occurs when people come into contact with the bug’s faeces or urine: for example, through the insect’s bite or other open wound, or from eating contaminated food. Other routes include blood transfusion, mother-to-child transmission and from organ transplants.
Growing global health problem
Chagas disease was endemic in Latin American countries but is now a global health problem, affecting as many as seven million people.
In recent decades, cases have increasingly been detected in the United States and Canada, in many European countries, and in nations in Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Pacific.
WHO said it is also a “silenced” disease, because it mainly affects poor people who have no political voice or access to healthcare.
Chagas disease can be treated with medicines that kill the parasite, which are “100% effective” if given soon after infection.
Depending on the geographical location, WHO also recommends prevention and control measures such as spraying homes and surrounding areas with residual insecticides, using bednets, promoting good hygiene practices in food preparation and storage, and screening blood donors.
End neglect and stigma
For the UN agency, World Chagas Disease Day gives voice to those who suffer, as raising awareness is essential to improve rates of early treatment and cure.
“Chagas disease has been associated for a long time with mainly poor, rural and marginalized populations and is characterized by poverty and exclusion”, said Dr. Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, Director of the agency’s Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases.
“It is time we end this neglect and the social stigma associated with infection that stands as a major barrier to effective screening, diagnosis, treatment and control.”