#ChinaStudy; #FaceMasks; #Covid19Pandemic; #WHO; #PublicHealthEngland;
China, May 30 (Canadian-Media): Wearing face masks at home might help ward off the spread of COVID-19 infection among family members living in the same household, but only before symptoms develop, suggests a study of Chinese families in Beijing, accepted for publication in BMJ Global Health.
Image credit: Public Domain
This practice was 79% effective at curbing transmission before symptoms emerged in the first person infected, but it wasn't protective once symptoms had developed, the study shows.
The figures in China suggest that most of the person to person transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 infection, has occurred in families. But it's not clear if the wearing of face masks might help curb household transmission rates, along with social distancing and disinfection.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and Public Health England haven't endorsed the wearing of face masks indoors or outdoors, on the grounds that there's little good quality evidence to warrant recommending this.
To explore whether face masks might make a difference, the researchers questioned 460 people from 124 families in Beijing, China, on their household hygiene and behaviours during the pandemic.
Each family had at least one laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19 infection between late February and late March 2020. Average family size was 4, but ranged from 2 to 9, and usually comprised three generations.
Family members were defined as those who had lived with the infected person for 4 days before and more than 24 hours after that person's symptoms first appeared.
The researchers wanted to know what factors might heighten or lessen the risk of subsequently catching the virus within the incubation period—14 days from the start of that person's symptoms.
During this time, secondary transmission—spread from the first infected person to other family members—occurred in 41 out of the 124 families. A total of 77 adults and children were infected in this way, giving an 'attack rate' of 23% or around 1 in 4.
Around a third of the study children caught the virus (36%; 13 out of 36) compared with more than two thirds of the adults (just over 69.5%; 64 out of 92).
Twelve of the children had mild symptoms; one had none. Most (83%) of the adults had mild symptoms; in around 1 in 10, symptoms were severe, and one person became critically ill.
Daily use of disinfectants, window opening, and keeping at least 1 metre apart were associated with a lower risk of passing on the virus, even in more crowded households.
But daily contact and the number of family members wearing a face mask after the start of symptoms in the first person to develop them were associated with a heightened risk.
Of all the behavioural and hygiene factors, four were significantly associated with secondary transmission of the virus.
Diarrhoea in the first person to become infected and close daily contact with them increased the risk of passing on the virus: diarrhoea was associated with a quadrupling in risk, while close daily contact, such as eating meals round a table or watching TV together, was associated with an 18-fold increased risk.
Frequent use of bleach or disinfectants for household cleaning and the wearing of a face mask at home before symptoms emerged, including by the first person to have them, were associated with a reduced risk of viral transmission.
A face mask worn before symptoms started was 79% effective, and disinfection 77% effective, at stopping the virus from being passed on.
The authors acknowledge some limitations to their study: telephone interviews are subject to recall and the strength of household disinfectants and bleach used wasn't recorded.
Nevertheless, they suggest the findings back universal face mask use, not just in public spaces, but also at home. And the findings may also be relevant for families living with someone in quarantine or in enforced social isolation, and for the families of health workers who may face an ongoing risk of infection, they say.
"This study confirms the highest risk of household transmission being prior to symptom onset, but that precautionary [non-pharmaceutical interventions], such as mask use, disinfection and social distancing in households can prevent COVID-19 transmission during the pandemic," independent of household size or crowding, they write.
"Household transmission is a major driver of epidemic growth," they point out, adding that their findings could be used to "inform precautionary guidelines for families to reduce intrafamilial transmission in areas where there is high community transmission or other risk factors for COVID-19."
#UN; #InternationalPartners; #SharingTreatment&Technologies; #Covid19Pandemic
Geneva, May 30 (Canadian-Media): Thirty countries and numerous international partners have underlined the need to make tests, treatments and other technologies to fight COVID-19, available to people everywhere, UN reports said.
Three young women wearing masks are selling medicine on the street during the COVID-19 crisis in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire. Image credit: Jennifer A. Patterson / ILO
They have signed up to support the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), a “one-stop shop” for sharing scientific knowledge, data and intellectual property in efforts to beat back the disease.
“Tools to prevent, detect and treat COVID-19 are global public goods that must be accessible by all people”, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaking at the virtual launch held on Friday.
Equal access to technology critical
C-TAP is a sister initiative to the ACT Accelerator, established last month, to speed up development of vaccines and other tools against the pandemic.
It was first proposed in March by President Carlos Alvarado of Costa Rica.
“The promise of sure and safe and effective affordable health care solutions, such as treatments and vaccines, must be the guide for our actions, and it will allow us to overcome a crisis which has left behind so much pain in so many communities throughout the world”, he said, speaking through an interpreter.
“Nevertheless, there is no point in achieving these amazing technological developments if we cannot guarantee affordable access to technology.”
Voluntary ‘one-stop shop
’The UN health agency has described C-TAP as “a one-stop shop” that will be voluntary and based on the principle of solidarity.
WHO said it builds on the success of the Medicines Patent Pool in expanding access to treatments for HIV and the debilitating inflammatory liver disease, hepatitis.
There are five key elements to the initiative, starting with public disclosure of gene sequences and data, as well as clinical trial results.
Governments and research funders are also encouraged to include clauses in contracts with pharmaceutical companies that stress equitable distribution and publication of trial data.
Additionally, treatments and vaccines should be licensed to both large and small producers.
C-TAP also promotes open innovation models and technology transfers that increase local manufacturing and supply.
Through C-TAP, we are inviting companies or governments that develop an effective therapeutic to contribute the patent to the Medicines Patent Pool, which would then sub-license the patent to generic manufacturers”, said Tedros.
WHO, Costa Rica and all the countries that have sponsored the initiative also issued a ‘Solidarity Call to Action’ urging other stakeholders to join C-TAP.
Agencies call for joint effort to safely deliver routine immunization and proceed with vaccination campaigns against deadly vaccine-preventable diseases.
#WHO; #UNICEF; #diphtheria, #measles, #polio, #COVID-19; #MassVaccinationCampaigns
Geneva, May 23 (Canadian-Media): At least 80 million children under one at risk of diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio as COVID-19 disrupts routine vaccination efforts, warn Gavi, WHO and UNICEF.
WHO. Image credit: Official logo
COVID 19 is disrupting life-saving immunization services around the world, putting millions of children – in rich and poor countries alike – at risk of diseases like diphtheria, measles and polio. This stark warning comes from the World Health Organization, UNICEF and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance ahead of the Global Vaccine Summit on 4 June, at which world leaders will come together to help maintain immunization programmes and mitigate the impact of the pandemic in lower-income countries.
According to data collected by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Gavi and the Sabin Vaccine Institute, provision of routine immunization services is substantially hindered in at least 68 countries and is likely to affect approximately 80 million children under the age of 1 living in these countries.
Since March 2020, routine childhood immunization services have been disrupted on a global scale that may be unprecedented since the inception of expanded programs on immunization (EPI) in the 1970s. More than half (53%) of the 129 countries where data were available reported moderate-to-severe disruptions, or a total suspension of vaccination services during March-April 2020.
“Immunization is one of the most powerful and fundamental disease prevention tools in the history of public health,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Disruption to immunization programmes from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.”
“At the 4 June Global Vaccine Summit in London, donors will pledge their support to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to sustain and accelerate this lifesaving work in some of the most vulnerable countries. From the bottom of my heart, I urge donors to fully fund the Alliance. These countries, these children especially, need vaccines, and they need Gavi.”
The reasons for disrupted services vary. Some parents are reluctant to leave home because of restrictions on movement, lack of information or because they fear infection with the COVID-19 virus. And many health workers are unavailable because of restrictions on travel, or redeployment to COVID response duties, as well as a lack of protective equipment.
“More children in more countries are now protected against more vaccine-preventable diseases than at any point in history,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, Gavi CEO. “Due to COVID-19 this immense progress is now under threat, risking the resurgence of diseases like measles and polio. Not only will maintaining immunization programmes prevent more outbreaks, it will also ensure we have the infrastructure we need to roll out an eventual COVID-19 vaccine on a global scale.”
Transport delays of vaccines are exacerbating the situation. UNICEF has reported a substantial delay in planned vaccine deliveries due to the lockdown measures and the ensuing decline in commercial flights and limited availability of charters. To help mitigate this, UNICEF is appealing to governments, the private sector, the airline industry, and others, to free up freight space at an affordable cost for these life-saving vaccines. Gavi recently signed an agreement with UNICEF to provide advance funding to cover increased freight costs for delivery of vaccines, in light of the reduced number of commercial flights available for transport.
“We cannot let our fight against one disease come at the expense of long-term progress in our fight against other diseases,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “We have effective vaccines against measles, polio and cholera. While circumstances may require us to temporarily pause some immunization efforts, these immunizations must restart as soon as possible, or we risk exchanging one deadly outbreak for another.”
Next week, WHO will issue new advice to countries on maintaining essential services during the pandemic, including recommendations on how to provide immunizations safely.
Mass immunization campaigns temporarily disrupted
Many countries have temporarily and justifiably suspended preventive mass vaccination campaigns against diseases like cholera, measles, meningitis, polio, tetanus, typhoid and yellow fever, due to risk of transmission and the need to maintain physical distancing during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Measles and polio vaccination campaigns, in particular, have been badly hit, with measles campaigns suspended in 27 countries and polio campaigns put on hold in 38 countries. At least 24 million people in 21 Gavi-supported lower-income countries are at risk of missing out on vaccines against polio, measles, typhoid, yellow fever, cholera, rotavirus, HPV, meningitis A and rubella due to postponed campaigns and introductions of new vaccines.
In late March, concerned that mass gatherings for vaccination campaigns would enflame transmission of COVID-19 WHO recommended countries to temporarily suspend preventive campaigns while assessments of risk, and effective measures for reducing COVID virus transmission were established.
WHO has since monitored the situation and has now issued advice to help countries determine how and when to resume mass vaccination campaigns. The guidance notes that countries will need to make specific risk assessments based on the local dynamics of COVID-19 transmission, the health system capacities, and the public health benefit of conducting preventive and outbreak response vaccination campaigns.
Based on this guidance, and following growing concerns about increasing transmission of polio, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), is advising countries to start planning for the safe resumption of polio vaccination campaigns, especially in polio high-risk countries.
Despite the challenges, several countries are making special efforts to continue immunization. Uganda is ensuring that immunization services continue along with other essential health services, even funding transportation to ensure outreach activities. And in Lao PDR, despite a national lockdown imposed in March, routine immunization in fixed sites continued with physical distancing measures in place.
#WHO; #SSEC; #IAP; #Covid19Pandemic; #UN;#SDGs;
Geneva, May 23 (Canadian-Media): The Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP)—a partnership of 140 national academies of science, engineering and medicine—has developed “COVID-19! How can I protect myself and others?,” a new rapid-response guide for youth ages 8–17, WHO reports said.
WHO. Image credit: Official Logo
The guide, which is based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, aims to help young people understand the science and social science of COVID-19 as well as help them take actions to keep themselves, their families and communities safe.Through a set of seven cohesive student-led tasks, participants engage in the activities to answer questions previously defined by their peers. The questions explore the impact of COVID-19 on the world, how to practice hand and respiratory hygiene and physical distancing, and how to research more information about COVID-19. The final task teaches youth how they can take action on the new scientific knowledge they learn to improve their health and the health of others. Each task is designed to be completed at home.
The guide includes updated research, activities, quotes from scientists and frontline public health officials, and physical and emotional safety tips on COVID-19. It also integrates inquiry-based science education with social and emotional learning and civic engagement.
“We are immensely grateful to WHO, the IAP, our colleagues at the Smithsonian and other senior project advisors and translators for their perspectives and technical support in ensuring the science is accurate,” said Carol O’Donnell, director of the Smithsonian Science Education Center. “We are also grateful to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for their support during the development of this module. This work represents the power of collaboration and working closely with others across the globe, even during a time of physical distancing.”
“Through this project, the Smithsonian Science Education Center makes science exciting and approachable for children and youth all over the world and encourages them to learn by doing” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at WHO. “With all the myths and misconceptions out there, it is important for children and youth to understand the nature of this pandemic and what can be done to prevent future pandemics from happening,”
“It is so important for children—wherever they are in the world—to develop their scientific understanding and rational thinking,” said Professor Volker ter Meulen, president of IAP. “Only by being able to make rational decisions based on the best science and evidence can any of us adjust our behavior to keep ourselves and our families safe from infections such as COVID-19.”
The Smithsonian Science Education Center will disseminate the information to youth worldwide in collaboration with WHO, IAP, educators, and museum and research center networks. The guide is free, will be available to youth in more than 15 languages, particularly African and Asian languages, and can be found at https://ssec.si.edu/covid-19.
UN; #Covid19Pandemic; #ChildImmunization; #VaccineAlliance; #VaccineCampaign
Geneva, May 12 (Canadian-Media): Global experts in health and child welfare have again highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting access to routine immunization services worldwide, putting millions of young lives at risk of killer diseases such as diphtheria, measles and pneumonia, UN reports said.
A 3-year-old girl receives a vaccine shot at a community health centre in Beijing, China, on 26 March 2020. Image credit: UNICEF/Zhang Yuwei
“As the world comes together to develop a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, we must not forget the dozens of lifesaving vaccines that already exist and must continue to reach children everywhere”, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaking in Geneva on Friday.
Decades of progress at risk
Child mortality rates have dropped by half over the past 20 years, largely due to safe, effective vaccination.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic means routine immunization services are now substantially hindered in nearly 70 countries, with roughly 80 million children under a year old, likely to be affected.
As UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore explained, vaccination campaigns have dwindled for several reasons, including implementation of measures to contain coronavirus spread, redeployment of health personnel to treat COVID-19 patients, and “serious disruption” to supply chains and transport routes.
Parents have also been reluctant, or unable, to go to vaccination sites due to fears surrounding transmission, or because of movement restrictions.
“However, we cannot let our fight against one disease come at the expense of long-term progress in our fight against other diseases”, she said.
“We cannot exchange one deadly outbreak for another. We cannot afford to lose the decades of health gains that everyone has worked so hard to achieve.”
Preparing for ‘mass vaccine catch-up campaigns'
Despite the dire news, some countries such as Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire and Laos, are forging ahead with vaccine programmes, according to Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer at GAVI.
The Vaccine Alliance has helped lower-income countries save more than 13 million lives since its inception in 2000.
Mr. Berkley underscored the importance of immunization.
“Recent modelling from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine shows that if you were to try to avoid getting COVID by stopping routine immunization, for every COVID death prevented you would have more than 100 deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases”, he said.
Summit seeks to raise $7.4 billion
Globally, there were more than five million COVID-19 cases as of Friday, and more than 320,000 deaths.
GAVI stands ready to support what Mr. Berkley called “the mass vaccine catch-up campaigns”, to protect children unable to be immunized because of the pandemic.
The United Kingdom will host the Global Vaccine Summit on 4 June with the goal of securing $7.4 billion to cover GAVI’s work over the next five years.
The funding will be enough to vaccinate 300 million additional children worldwide, preventing at least another seven million deaths.
Pledges have been received so far from numerous countries including the UK, the United States, Norway, Germany, Canada, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Spain.
#UN; #AsiaPacificNations; #Covid19Pandemic; #ESCAP;#SDGs
Geneva, May 22 (Canadian-Media): Gathering together at the top UN intergovernmental body in Asia and the Pacific on Thursday, countries of the vast region of more than four billion people, urged greater measures that reinforce global solidarity in ending the COVID-19 pandemic, media reports said.
Executive Secretary Armida Alisjahbana (left) with other participants at the 76th session of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in Bangkok. Image credit: ESCAP/Suwat Chancharoensuk
In a resolution adopted on Thursday, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) declared “profound solidarity” with the countries and people affected by the disease and resolved “to pursue coordinated and decisive actions, to contain, mitigate and defeat the pandemic through reinforced regional and global cooperation.”
“[The Commission] reiterates the importance of multilateralism and international cooperation, and encourages action by all members … to promote measures that may reinforce global solidarity in responding to the outbreak of COVID-19”, read the resolution, which was tabled by the Chair and co-sponsored by several of the Commission member States.
International and regional cooperation was also highlighted as a means to strengthen the resilience of the region’s countries, with regard to the socioeconomic effects of pandemics and other related crises.
Recovering from COVID-19 provides an opportunity to “build back better” in the region, added the text, “including by building more equal, inclusive and sustainable institutions, economies and societies that respect human rights and are more resilient in the face of any future pandemic, and other related crises faced by the region, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
‘Build back better’The importance of the 2030 Agenda to realize a better future was also underscored by the UN Secretary-General at the opening of the Commission’s seventy-sixth session.
“I am strongly convinced that we have an opportunity to build back better on the foundations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” said Secretary-General António Guterres in a video message.
“That means forging common solutions to the climate crisis, economic and social inequalities, new forms of violence, and rapid changes in technology and demography. We can rescue our planet and build a better world for all. Let us work together to do just that.”
The hope of a better future was echoed by leaders from across the Asia-Pacific region.
Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Prime Minister of Thailand; Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh; Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji; and Kausea Natano, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu delivered video messages from their capitals.
In their messages the leaders cautioned about the complexities and growing threats of COVID-19 on sustainable development. They, however, also expressed their optimism that recovery will provide the opportunity to strengthen resilience and build a more equal, inclusive and sustainable Asia-Pacific region.
Balancing pandemic response with socio-economic recovery
As a result of the pandemic, countries have witnessed dramatic falls in economic growth and jobs, only to be followed by low demand, constrained trade and reduced mobility.
Against this background, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, the Executive Secretary of ESCAP, highlighted three key areas to help balance pandemic containment measures against those for socio-economic recovery: protecting and investing in people and enhancing resilience; supporting sustainable and inclusive economic recovery; and restoring supply chains and supporting small and medium enterprises.
“These challenging times calls upon us, as citizens of the region, to extend our hands to the most vulnerable. Upholding our collective strengths, rekindling our values and reinvigorating the spirit of compassion unite us as we chart new pathways,” she said.
First-ever virtual session
In its more than seven decade history, this was the first time the Commission’s membership convened virtually, via video-conference, with only the ESCAP’s incoming Chair, Md. Nazmul Quaunine, the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Bangladesh; the Executive Secretary of ESCAP; and a handful of secretariat officials in the body’s primary chamber - “ESCAP Hall” - at the UN Conference Centre in Bangkok.
The outgoing Chair, Damdin Tsogtbaatar the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia, opened the session remotely from Ulaanbaatar, and all participants, numbering about 260 from 54 of the Commission’s 62 members and associate members, connected remotely.
For its annual session, the Commission usually meets over five days, hosting several special and side events as well as exhibitions, drawing over a thousand participants, including civil society organizations representatives and university students.
Established in 1947, ESCAP is the largest of the UN’s five regional commissions – both in terms of geographic coverage and population served – its membership spanning from the Pacific island nation of Kiribati in the east, to Turkey in the west, and Russia in the north, to New Zealand in the south.
#UN; #Covid19Pandemic; #MisinformationHamperingResponse; #GlobalSolidarity
Geneva, May 21 (Canadian-Media): A new UN initiative aims to push back against the tide of lies and hate that has risen in tandem with the COVID-19 pandemic, by empowering people worldwide to share accurate information to help save lives and promote global solidarity, UN reports said.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday launched Verified, which will create a cadre of “digital first responders” to increase the volume and reach of trusted, accurate information surrounding the crisis.
“We cannot cede our virtual spaces to those who traffic in lies, fear and hate”, the UN chief said.
“Misinformation spreads online, in messaging apps and person to person. Its creators use savvy production and distribution methods. To counter it, scientists and institutions like the United Nations need to reach people with accurate information they can trust.”
Science, solidarity and support
Under Verified, information will be provided around three themes: science – to save lives; solidarity – to promote local and global cooperation; and solutions – to advocate for support for populations that have been impacted by COVID-19.
The initiative will also promote recovery packages that tackle the climate crisis and address the root causes of poverty, inequality and hunger.
People across the world are encouraged to sign up as “information volunteers” with Verified, to share trusted content to keep their families and communities safe and connected.
The volunteers - described as “digital first responders” - will receive a daily feed of verified content that will be optimized for sharing on social media platforms, containing simple yet compelling messaging that either directly counters misinformation with facts, or fills in any gaps.
Verified will partner with UN agencies and others, including influencers, civil society, business and media organizations, to distribute trusted, accurate content, while also working with social media platforms to root out hate and harmful information about COVID-19.
Misinformation hampering response, fomenting unrest
Verified will be led by the UN’s Department of Global Communications, which is home to UN News.
It is a collaboration with Purpose, one of the world’s leading social mobilization organizations, and is supported by the IKEA Foundation and Luminate.
Melissa Fleming, who heads the UN communications department, observed that in many countries, misinformation spread via digital channels is impeding pandemic response and stirring unrest.
“There are disturbing efforts to exploit the crisis to advance nativism or to target minority groups, which could worsen as the strain on societies grows and the economic and social fallout kicks in”, she added.
“The Verified initiative will also work to address this trend with hopeful content that celebrates local acts of humanity, the contributions of refugees and migrants, and makes the case for global cooperation.”
WHO countries agree 'equitable and timely access' to coronavirus vaccine, 'comprehensive evaluation' of response
#WHO; #GlobalResponseToCovid19Pandemic; #WorldHealthAssembly
Geneva, May 19 (Canadian-Media): The World Health Organization (WHO) concluded the annual World Health Assembly on Tuesday, adopting a resolution that calls for an independent review of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the agency’s own performance, UN reports said.
The UN health agency's annual oversight convention, held for the first time ever by teleconference from Geneva on 18-19 May, was focused intensely on defeating the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 4.7 million people worldwide, caused more than 316,100 deaths and thrown the futures of even the most robust economies into jeopardy.
The event was punctuated by the assertion from the White House that WHO did not act quickly enough in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak to contain its spread. In a letter sent via Twitter on Monday to the WHO chief, US President Donald Trump set a 30-day deadline for the UN health agency to make significant reforms or risk losing funding.
Resolution on vaccines, treatment, ‘comprehensive evaluation’
By the resolution, passed unanimously by the 194 WHO Member States, the Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was called on to rapidly identify and provide options for scaling up the development, manufacture and distribution capacities needed for providing access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines.
More broadly, international organizations were called on to work collaboratively to develop, test and scale-up production of safe, effective, quality, affordable diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines for the COVID-19 response – including in the licensing of patents to facilitate access to them.
In his closing remarks, Tedros said WHO’s focus remains fighting the pandemic with every tool at its disposal. “Our focus is on saving lives,” he said.
He pledged to initiate an evaluation at the “earliest appropriate moment”, welcoming any effort to strengthen global health security - and the agency itself. “As always, WHO remains fully committed to transparency, accountability and continuous improvement,” he assured. “We want accountability more than anyone.”
Neither he nor the Secretary-General responded on Tuesday directly to Mr. Trump’s letter, with the UN Spokesperson referring journalists in New York to opening remarks on the work and value of the WHO amidst the pandemic, António Guterres made to the Assembly on Monday.
Dr. Tedros also thanked the Independent Oversight Advisory Committee for its continuous review of WHO’s work in health emergencies, and in particular, its report on the COVID-19 response, published on Monday. “Checking and learning our lessons is in WHO’s DNA”, Tedros said, noting that he was heartened at how countries had shared best practices during the Assembly.
‘We’ll never, ever give up’
For its part, WHO will continue to provide strategic leadership to coordinate the global response, he said, offering epidemiological information and analysis and keeping countries updated on ways to keep safe.
In addition, WHO will continue to ship diagnostics, personal protective equipment and medical supplies across the globe, convene experts to deliver technical advice based on the best science, and drive research to develop evidence about vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.
COVID-19 has “robbed us of people we love”, he said, taken livelihoods and shaken the world’s very foundations. It has also offered a reminder of the opportunity to forge a common future. WHO will continue to work - day and night - to support the most vulnerable countries and populations. “We’ll never, ever give up,” Tedros pledged. “Let our shared humanity be the antidote to our shared threat.”
#UN; #Covid19Solidarity; #WHO; #Vulnerable
Geneva, May 18 (Canadian-Media): A “massive” and combined effort by all countries is needed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday, as UN health agency head, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, insisted that “the majority of the world’s population remains susceptible to this virus”, UN reports said.
Addressing World Health Organization (WHO) Member States attending the foreshortened and virtual World Health Assembly in Geneva via videoconference, the UN chief pointed out that despite “some solidarity”, there had been “very little unity” in the global response to the new coronavirus so far.
Because of this, “a microscopic virus has brought us to our knees,” he said, before reiterating his support for the “irreplaceable” WHO.
WHO advice ‘ignored’“
Many countries have ignored the recommendations of the World Health Organization”, the UN chief said. “As a result, the virus has spread across the world and is now moving into the Global South, where its impact may be even more devastating, and we are risking further spikes and waves.”
Likening the “sometimes contradictory” strategies adopted by countries to a global failure to address climate change, Mr. Guterres repeated his call for more nations to address the pandemic’s health impact and economic and social fallout. “Unless we control the spread of the virus, the economy will never recover”, he explained.
Support was needed “that will keep households afloat and businesses solvent”, the UN Secretary-General insisted, reiterating his call for the G20 group of nations to consider launching a stimulus package equivalent to a double-digit percentage of global GDP.
He also called for greater support through the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank Group and other international financial institutions.
Most vulnerable need targeted support
The most affected individuals should receive help, Mr. Guterres explained, before singling out women, older people, children and low-wage earners, among others.
While developed countries can do this by themselves, we must massively increase the resources available to the developing world: “And we are all paying a heavy price.”
Acknowledging calls by some countries for an inquiry into how the new coronavirus threat spread so rapidly, the UN chief insisted that it was too early to do so.
“The lessons learned will be essential to effectively address similar challenges, as they may arise in the future”, he said. “But now is not that time. Now is the time for unity, for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.”
‘Either we stand together, or we fall apart’
After paying tribute to frontline health workers “who are the heroes of this pandemic”, Mr. Guterres also reiterated his support for the WHO, describing the organization as “irreplaceable” and one that needed more resources to support at-risk developing countries.
“Either we get through this pandemic together, or we fail”, he said, in a speech which also underscored the “lawless multilateral environment”, under threat from constant breaches in cybersecurity to the “ever-increasing risk” of nuclear proliferation. “Either we stand together, or we fall apart,” he said.
300,000 lives and counting
To date, the WHO has reported more than 4.5 million cases of COVID-19 infection and more than 300,000 lives lost, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told Member States on Monday.
The infection has moved “like a bushfire”, Tedros continued, before warning that the early blood test studies consistently indicated that only between one and two people in 10, appeared to have come into contact with the disease, triggering an immune reaction shown by the existence of antibodies.
“Even in the worst-affected regions, the proportion of the population with the tell-tale antibodies is no more than 20 per cent, and in most places, less than 10 per cent”, Tedros said. “In other words, the majority of the world’s population remains susceptible to this virus.”
No country has been spared in coming to grips with the infection, he added, before noting that while some are still “bracing for the worst”, others have begun to ease lockdown measures.
Proceed with caution
“WHO fully understands and supports the desire of countries to get back on their feet and back to work,” he said, nonetheless urging caution.
“It’s precisely because we want the fastest possible global recovery that we urge countries to proceed with caution. Countries that move too fast, without putting in place the public health architecture to detect and suppress transmission, run a real risk of handicapping their own recovery.”
Global health risks unwinding
At the same time, the ongoing pandemic risks unwinding “decades of progress” against maternal and child mortality, HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, noncommunicable diseases, mental health, polio”, among other urgent health threats, the WHO chief said.
The 73rd session of the Assembly – which is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO) - is being held virtually over two days – instead of the usual two weeks, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the assembly’s cut-down agenda, country delegations are expected to deliver statements focusing specifically on the COVID-19 pandemic, with other business pushed back to later in the year.
#UN; #ChildVaccination; #DRC; # COVID19Pandemic; #UNICEF
Geneva, May 16 (Canadian-Media): Fewer children are getting vaccinated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the COVID-19 pandemic is almost certainly going to make matters worse, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says, UN reports said.
A health worker administers a vaccination against measles on a young girl in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Image credit: WHO
If the trend continues, it could trigger a resurgence in deadly childhood diseases such as polio, chickenpox, measles, yellow fever, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and meningitis.
In a statement released on Friday, UNICEF said that a decline in vaccinations in January and February, compared to the same two months in 2019, was likely due to such established challenges as low coverage, insufficient supplies and a poor system for keeping vaccines cool whilst in storage and transit.
COVID-19 will “almost certainly worsen the situation,” with parents reluctant to turn up at vaccination sessions for fear of exposing themselves and their youngsters to the novel coronavirus, and health workers lacking personal protective equipment, the agency added.
In response, UNICEF is urging the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to launch catch-up campaigns and intensify immunization efforts to reach all children with life-saving vaccines. It also called on international donors to step up their multi-year contributions to the effort.
“If this downward trend in immunization coverage persists, it will erase the gains made over the past two years in tackling deadly vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles”, warned Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF’s representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“The larger the number of unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children, the higher the risk of disease outbreaks – and this will only strain an already overburdened health system”, Mr. Beigbeder said.
The challenge is not unique to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On 1 May, UNICEF said that children’s lives are at stake as COVID-19 restrictions hamper the delivery of vaccines that are already in short supply.
In the first two months of this year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, coverage of vaccinations against early childhood diseases – including hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and meningitis - went down by 8 to 10 per cent, UNICEF said on Friday.
Polio vaccination coverage slipped by 8.4 per cent for the inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) and 5.4 per cent for the oral vaccine for type 3 polio. Coverage of other vaccines against chickenpox, measles, pneumococcal disease and rotavirus decreased by between 4.5 and 1.5 percent.
Turning percentages to numbers, UNICEF said that 86,905 children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have not received the oral polio vaccine and 74,860 did not get a dose of the tetanus-diphtheria-whooping cough-hepatitis B-Hib3 vaccine.
Some 107.010 youngsters have not been vaccinated for yellow fever and 84,676 have not been vaccinated against measles. (The Democratic Republic of the Congo experienced the world’s worst measles outbreak in 2019, with every province affected.)
In a country where only 35 per cent of children are fully vaccinated before their first birthday, the stakes are high, UNICEF said, warning that the Democratic Republic of the Congo risks losing its polio-free certification and that measles and yellow fever could return to epidemic levels.
Such an outcome could have a devastating impact on vulnerable children in areas affected by conflict and insecurity, or who live in remote parts of the country, it emphasized.