Kim Sledge and the World We Want partner with WHO Foundation to re-record unity anthem “We Are Family” in response to COVID-19 and to focus on global public health needs
#Geneva, #WHO; #WorldWeWant; #WeAreFamily; #Covid19; #Solidarity
Geneva/WHO, Oct 20 (Canadian-Media): Special edition cover of the classic song “We Are Family’ will be accompanied by a worldwide viral video starring celebrities, frontline health heroes, leaders and members of the public singing together in a show of solidarity and support for addressing present and future global public health needs, including COVID-19.
WHO. Image credit: Twitter handle
Launching today, the #WeAreFamily video campaign will invite people worldwide to star in the music video, recording videos of themselves with their close family and friends singing the song and then sharing this on their social media channels.
Part of the proceeds from the new song, being released 9 Nov, will be donated to the WHO Foundation to support the response to COVID-19 and promotion and protection of health for people around the world.
A special edition cover of Sister Sledge’s timeless hit We Are Family will be released in a new and inspiring call for global solidarity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to generate proceeds to address the most pressing global health challenges of our time. The initiative is being launched by The World We Want, the global social impact enterprise, and Kim Sledge, part of the legendary multi-Gold and Platinum recording music group, in benefit of the WHO Foundation, and supported by the World Health Organization (WHO).
This new initiative, being launched ahead of United Nations Day on 24 October, will also be accompanied by a unique video and social media campaign, and sound a bold and hopeful call for solidarity, unity, and collaboration to promote and protect the health and wellbeing for every person on the planet.
A call for solidarity
The inspiration to release a special edition of the classic track came in March 2020 as communities around the world were left reeling from the impact of COVID-19.
Kim Sledge said: “From the doctors and nurses on the front lines, to the paramedics and police, from the midwives and scientists to the carers for the vulnerable, the We Are Family initiative will salute each and every one with a feeling of unity, strength and solidarity in response to the unprecedented challenges the world faces as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.”
“There are many people who motivated me to embark on this new initiative in support of making We Are Family come to life, and who are very dedicated to finding ways to conquer this crisis. They include my close family friend Lou Weisbach, my Mercy Seat Ministry brothers and sisters, and all of the global health workers, scientists, the essential labourers, care givers and emergency personnel around the world who have been working day and night during the pandemic in support of others,” added Kim, a vocalist, philanthropist, novelist, songwriter, producer and Minister.
Using music’s universal power in bringing the world together, the #WeAreFamily campaign is focused on raising awareness on, and much needed resources for, addressing global public health needs, from emergency preparedness, outbreak response, and stronger health systems to promoting mental health and preventing non-communicable diseases.
Natasha Mudhar, founder of The World We Want and the driving force behind the #WeAreFamily campaign, said: “We Are Family is one of the most instantly recognizable anthems in the world. The song carries such an inspiring message of unity and solidarity. We are certain that the We Are Family song and video initiative is being launched at the right time. It is a rallying cry for togetherness, for the strength of our global family. We are all together during these times.”
Special edition version song to support health efforts
The special edition of the classic We Are Family song will be released online for download on 9 November 2020 in conjunction with the opening of the World Health Assembly, at which Kim Sledge is also scheduled to perform the song alongside choral singers from New York to Tonga. A portion of the song’s proceeds will be donated to the WHO Foundation to support the delivery of life-saving health services.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, said: “We Are Family is more than a song. It is a call to action for collaboration and kindness, and a reminder of the strength of family and the importance of coming together to help others in times of need.”
Dr Tedros added: “Now more than ever, communities and individuals all over the world need to heed this message and come together, as a global family, to support each other through this COVID-19 challenge, and to remember that our health and wellbeing is our most precious gift. I am grateful to Kim Sledge and the World We Want for sharing this masterpiece and message of hope with us all. It is only through national unity and global solidarity that we will overcome COVID-19 and ensure people all over the world attain the highest level of health and well-being."
Join the We Are Family video campaign
In support of the song’s release, a call is being launched today (19 October) for people worldwide to submit videos of themselves singing We Are Family for inclusion in a unique and inspiring compilation video for release on 7 December 2020. This video will honour the incredible work of the frontline workforces risking their lives around to save ours, and all those around the world who have been affected by the pandemic.
To submit sing-along videos to the Special Edition Cover Version of the We Are Family song, the key steps are:
#UN; #PharmaceuticalCompanies; #Covid19Vaccine; #UNICEF
UN, Oct 19 (Canadian-Media): With countries and pharmaceutical companies around the world gearing up to distribute COVID-19 vaccines following trials, the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF has begun laying the groundwork for the rapid, safe and efficient delivery by buying and pre-positioning syringes and other necessary equipment.
A health worker fills a syringe with vaccine at a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Image credit: © UNICEF/Patrick Brown
As soon as vaccines are licensed for use, the world will need as many syringes as doses of vaccine, said UNICEF on Monday.
To begin preparations, this year, UNICEF will stockpile 520 million syringes in its warehouses, part of a larger plan to have a billion syringes ready for use through 2021, to guarantee initial supply and help ensure that syringes arrive before vaccines are distributed.
During 2021, assuming there are enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines, UNICEF expects to deliver around a billion syringes to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts on top of the 620 million syringes the agency will purchase for other vaccination programmes, against other diseases such as measles, typhoid and more.
“Vaccinating the world against COVID-19 will be one of the largest mass undertakings in human history, and we will need to move as quickly as the vaccines can be produced,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.
“In order to move fast later, we must move fast now. By the end of the year, we will already have over half a billion syringes pre-positioned where they can be deployed quickly and cost effectively. That’s enough syringes to wrap around the world one and a half times.”
In line with the longstanding collaboration between the two partners, the global vaccine alliance Gavi, will reimburse UNICEF for the cost of syringes and safety boxes, which will then be used for the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility) and for other Gavi-funded immunization programmes, if needed
‘Safety boxes’ for disposal
Besides syringes, UNICEF is also buying 5 million safety boxes so that used syringes and needles can be disposed in a safe manner by personnel at health facilities, reducing the risk of needle stick injuries and blood borne diseases.
Every safety box carries 100 syringes. Accordingly, UNICEF said it was “bundling” the syringes with safety boxes to ensure enough safety boxes are available to go along with the syringes.
Injection equipment such as syringes and safety boxes have a shelf life of five years, the agency notes. Lead-times for such equipment are also long as these items are bulky and need to be transported by sea freight. Vaccines, which are heat sensitive, are normally transported more quickly by air.
As the key procurement coordinator for Gavi, UNICEF is already the largest single vaccine buyer in the world, procuring more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries.
Every year, UNICEF provides vaccines for almost half of the world’s children and procures and supplies around 600-800 million syringes for regular immunization programmes.
COVID-19 vaccines will likely treble or quadruple that number, depending on the number that are ultimately produced and secured by UNICEF.
“Over two decades, Gavi has helped an additional 822 million children from the world’s most vulnerable countries access critical, life-saving vaccines”, said Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi. “This would not have been possible without our partnership with UNICEF, and it is this same collaboration that will be essential to Gavi’s work with the COVAX Facility.”
To make sure that vaccines are transported and stored at the right temperature, UNICEF, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), is also mapping out existing cold chain equipment and storage capacity – in the private as well as public sector – and preparing necessary guidance for countries to receive vaccines.
“We are doing everything we can to deliver these essential supplies efficiently, effectively and at the right temperature, as we already do so well all over the world,” Ms. Fore said.
Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with support from Gavi and in partnership with WHO, UNICEF has been upgrading the existing cold chain equipment across health facilities in countries to ensure that vaccines remain safe and effective throughout their journey.
Fridges boost health services
Since 2017, over 40,000 cold-chain fridges, including solar fridges, have been installed across health facilities, mostly in Africa, said the agency.
And in many countries, UNICEF is promoting solar technologies to help countries maintain supply chains.
In South Sudan, the least electrified country in the world, where temperatures frequently exceed 40 degrees Celsius, more than 700 health facilities have been equipped by UNICEF with solar power fridges - around 50 per cent of all facilities nationwide.
#WHO; #ILO; #IFAD; #FAO; #COVID19Impact
Geneva/WHO, Oct 13 (Canadian-Media): The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic loss of human life worldwide and presents an unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems and the world of work. The economic and social disruption caused by the pandemic is devastating: tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty, while the number of undernourished people, currently estimated at nearly 690 million, could increase by up to 132 million by the end of the year.
Image credit: Official logo
Millions of enterprises face an existential threat. Nearly half of the world’s 3.3 billion global workforce are at risk of losing their livelihoods. Informal economy workers are particularly vulnerable because the majority lack social protection and access to quality health care and have lost access to productive assets. Without the means to earn an income during lockdowns, many are unable to feed themselves and their families. For most, no income means no food, or, at best, less food and less nutritious food.
The pandemic has been affecting the entire food system and has laid bare its fragility. Border closures, trade restrictions and confinement measures have been preventing farmers from accessing markets, including for buying inputs and selling their produce, and agricultural workers from harvesting crops, thus disrupting domestic and international food supply chains and reducing access to healthy, safe and diverse diets. The pandemic has decimated jobs and placed millions of livelihoods at risk. As breadwinners lose jobs, fall ill and die, the food security and nutrition of millions of women and men are under threat, with those in low-income countries, particularly the most marginalized populations, which include small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples, being hardest hit.
Millions of agricultural workers – waged and self-employed – while feeding the world, regularly face high levels of working poverty, malnutrition and poor health, and suffer from a lack of safety and labour protection as well as other types of abuse. With low and irregular incomes and a lack of social support, many of them are spurred to continue working, often in unsafe conditions, thus exposing themselves and their families to additional risks. Further, when experiencing income losses, they may resort to negative coping strategies, such as distress sale of assets, predatory loans or child labour. Migrant agricultural workers are particularly vulnerable, because they face risks in their transport, working and living conditions and struggle to access support measures put in place by governments. Guaranteeing the safety and health of all agri-food workers – from primary producers to those involved in food processing, transport and retail, including street food vendors – as well as better incomes and protection, will be critical to saving lives and protecting public health, people’s livelihoods and food security.
In the COVID-19 crisis food security, public health, and employment and labour issues, in particular workers’ health and safety, converge. Adhering to workplace safety and health practices and ensuring access to decent work and the protection of labour rights in all industries will be crucial in addressing the human dimension of the crisis. Immediate and purposeful action to save lives and livelihoods should include extending social protection towards universal health coverage and income support for those most affected. These include workers in the informal economy and in poorly protected and low-paid jobs, including youth, older workers, and migrants. Particular attention must be paid to the situation of women, who are over-represented in low-paid jobs and care roles. Different forms of support are key, including cash transfers, child allowances and healthy school meals, shelter and food relief initiatives, support for employment retention and recovery, and financial relief for businesses, including micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. In designing and implementing such measures it is essential that governments work closely with employers and workers.
Countries dealing with existing humanitarian crises or emergencies are particularly exposed to the effects of COVID-19. Responding swiftly to the pandemic, while ensuring that humanitarian and recovery assistance reaches those most in need, is critical.
Now is the time for global solidarity and support, especially with the most vulnerable in our societies, particularly in the emerging and developing world. Only together can we overcome the intertwined health and social and economic impacts of the pandemic and prevent its escalation into a protracted humanitarian and food security catastrophe, with the potential loss of already achieved development gains.
We must recognize this opportunity to build back better, as noted in the Policy Brief issued by the United Nations Secretary-General. We are committed to pooling our expertise and experience to support countries in their crisis response measures and efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to develop long-term sustainable strategies to address the challenges facing the health and agri-food sectors. Priority should be given to addressing underlying food security and malnutrition challenges, tackling rural poverty, in particular through more and better jobs in the rural economy, extending social protection to all, facilitating safe migration pathways and promoting the formalization of the informal economy.
We must rethink the future of our environment and tackle climate change and environmental degradation with ambition and urgency. Only then can we protect the health, livelihoods, food security and nutrition of all people, and ensure that our ‘new normal’ is a better one.
#UN; #Covid19; #HerdImmunity;
UN, Oct 12 (Canadian-Media): Using the principle of so-called “herd immunity” to stem the COVID-19 pandemic is “unethical” and “not an option” countries should pursue to defeat the virus, the UN health agency chief warned on Monday.
Heavy monsoon rains, such as in Bangladesh, leave already vulnerable people with less access to COVID-19 treatments. Image credit: WFP/Mehedi Rahman
“Herd immunity is a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), told the agency’s regular press briefing in Geneva.
But, he explained, it is achieved by protecting people from the virus, “not by exposing them to it”.
“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak”, the WHO chief said, calling it “scientifically and ethically problematic”.
To obtain herd immunity from measles, for example, about 95 per cent of the population must be vaccinated. However, according to WHO estimates, less than 10 per cent of the global population has any immunity to the coronavirus, leaving the “vast majority” of the world susceptible.
“Letting the virus circulate unchecked, therefore, means allowing unnecessary infections, suffering and death”, Tedros said.
Cases on the rise
Tedros noted that in recent days, the world was seeing the most rapid rise in infections during the course of the whole pandemic, especially in Europe and the Americas.
“Each of the last four days has been the highest number of cases reported so far”, he stated. “Many cities and countries are also reporting an increase in hospitalizations and intensive care bed occupancy”.
The WHO chief also reminded that, as an “uneven pandemic”, every country is responding differently, and stressed that outbreaks can be controlled using targeted measures, such as by preventing amplifying events, isolation and testing.
“It’s not a choice between letting the virus run free and shutting down our societies” he declared.
Again: ‘No silver bullet’
WHO noted that many have harnessed their stay-at-home time to develop plans, train health workers, increase testing time and capacity, and improve patient care.
And digital technologies are helping to make tried-and-tested public health tools even more effective, such as better smartphone apps to support contact tracing efforts.
“We well understand the frustration that many people, communities and Governments are feeling as the pandemic drags on, and as cases rise again”, Tedros said.
However, there are “no shortcuts, and no silver bullets”, he added.
Only a comprehensive approach, using every tool in the toolbox, has proven effective.
“My message to every country now weighing up its options is: you can do it too.”
#UN; #GlobalImpact; #Covid19; #UNFPA; #GenderBasedViolence; #telecounselling
UN, Oct 11 (Canadian-Media): While the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been staggering, the full impact on health has been far greater, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). The agency said fear, isolation, grief, economic stress and shuttered support services have taken a toll on the mental well-being of people around the world.
Pema is a psychosocial volunteer with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in Bhutan.
Image credit: © UNFPA Bhutan
Counsellors report urgent demands for mental and psychosocial support, particularly among women and girls who are facing an increase in gender-based violence, in addition to challenges brought on by the crisis.
Pema, a mental health counsellor who volunteers with UNFPA in central Bhutan, has witnessed this first-hand.
“This lockdown has brought the whole country to a standstill, but domestic violence and violence against women and girls have proliferated,” she said recently.
Surge in gender-based violence
A volunteer counsellor since 2007, Pema pivoted to providing services over the telephone due to the pandemic.
Pema said she has been “extremely busy” providing telecounselling services to survivors of physical and sexual violence.
The UNFPA-supported One-Stop Crisis Centre, located at the National Referral Hospital in Thimphu, Bhutan's capital, has also seen a surge in both gender-based violence and mental health concerns.
“During the first three months of COVID-19 restrictions, 22 cases of rape/sexual assault perpetrated against minors were reported to the One-Stop Crisis Centre,” said Dechen Chime, a UNFPA programme officer.
She added that over a three-week period in August, “the national newspaper reported increased cases of suicide, and the One-Stop Centre reported a suicide case every fourth day.”
UNFPA-supported non-governmental organizations, as well as shelters across the country, have also recorded dozens of cases of violence against women and girls.
Demand for telecounselling
Bhutan, a landlocked kingdom in the Himalayas, recorded its first case of COVID-19 in early March, prompting movement restrictions and shuttering schools and other institutions.
During the first months of the closures, the civil society organization RENEW, a UNFPA partner, delivered more than 200 telecounselling services, reflecting a marked increase in demand.
For Pema, telecounselling is not always enough. Some survivors require in-person support.
“For the last five days, I have been attending to a severe marital rape case through the telephone. The perpetrator has already been reported and is under police custody,” she explained.
“Today, my client has called me over seven times, and I am a bit worried. I want to visit her so I am applying for a movement order from the COVID-19 taskforce.”
Community volunteer network
The taskforce is a multi-sectoral group formed under the patronage of Her Majesty Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the Queen Mother of Bhutan and a UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador.
Normally, the taskforce addresses issues such as HIV and sexually transmitted infections by bringing together district health, education, legal and cultural representatives. Today, it coordinates much of the pandemic response.
With UNFPA’s support, the taskforce has also been working closely with the community volunteer network over the past six years. It is through this network that Pema, and more than 100 others like her, provide psychosocial support to survivors of violence.
The volunteers must travel over mountainous terrain to meet with clients, even in normal circumstances. Although the pandemic has complicated matters, the network has remained active in all 20 districts of the country.
“This is a time when nothing moves without proper coordination,” said Pema. “The multi-sectoral taskforce and community-based service system working together has really helped me to reach out to my clients, even during this lockdown.”
Needs are rising
When the pandemic was announced back in March, coordination efforts began almost immediately. Vulnerable populations were identified, and information about support and services was widely disseminated through television and social media by UNFPA and partners.
However, despite these efforts, UNFPA warned that needs are growing, and urgent attention is required.
This Saturday, 10 October, is World Mental Health Day, and experts across the globe are advocating for increased investment in services at a time when many lives have been upended.
“We are already seeing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s mental well-being, and this is just the beginning,” said Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Supporting ‘Gross National Happiness’
Bhutan has recognized the importance of ensuring mental health, according to UNFPA. Since the 1970s, the country’s official development policy has been guided by the concept of “Gross National Happiness”.
The Ministry of Health has established a dedicated hotline, led by senior psychiatrists, to respond to those in crisis. Anyone at risk of suicide or self harm, or in need of any other mental health support, can access these services free of charge.
Additionally, the National Commission for Women and Children, and RENEW-UNFPA, also provide psychosocial counselling services and temporary shelter services, which are also free.
#UN; #StillBirth; #WomenHealth; #Tragedy; #UNICEF
UN, Oct 8 (Canadian-Media): A stillborn baby is delivered every 16 seconds, which translates into nearly two million infants over the course of a year that never took their first breath, according to a new UN report published on Thursday.
Kadiatu Sama, who has had no prenatal care and whose child was stillborn, is comforted by a woman nurse in the maternity ward of the government hospital in Sierra Leone. ©UNICEF/UNI32026/PirozziUNICEF/UNI32026/Pirozzi
Neglected Tragedy: The Global Burden of Stillbirths, released by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), reveals that 84 per cent of these grievous episodes occur in low and lower-middle income countries.
The first-ever joint global estimates also point out that stillbirths remain a challenge for high income countries, where a mother’s level of education is one of the greatest drivers of inequity, and ethnic minorities may lack access to sufficient quality health care.
“Losing a child at birth or during pregnancy is a devastating tragedy for a family, one that is often endured quietly, yet all too frequently, around the world”, lamented UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
A majority of stillbirths could have been prevented -- UNICEF chief
And the report attests that the COVID-19 pandemic will likely lead a further rise.
A pandemic-induced 50 per cent reduction in health services, could cause nearly 200,000 additional stillbirths over a 12-month period in 117 low and middle income countries, according to modeling done for the report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Muhammad Ali Pate, Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank, and Director of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents, spelled out: “COVID-19 has triggered a devastating secondary health crisis for women, children and adolescents due to disruptions in life-saving health services”.
Poor quality of pregnancy and delivery care; a lack of antenatal and intrapartum services and weak nursing and midwifery workforces are responsible for most of these occurrences, says A Neglected Tragedy.
“Beyond the loss of life, the psychological and financial costs for women, families and societies are severe and long lasting”, Ms. Fore affirmed, adding that “a majority of stillbirths could have been prevented with high quality monitoring, proper antenatal care and a skilled birth attendant”.
But even before the pandemic, few women in low and middle income countries received timely, high-quality care to prevent stillbirths, the report shows – with coverage ranging from less than two per cent to a high of only 50 per cent in eight important maternal health interventions, including C-sections, malaria prevention and pregnancy hypertension management.
"Welcoming a baby into the world should be a time of great joy, but everyday thousands of parents experience unbearable sadness because their babies are still born”, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Sound investment needed
Despite advances in health services from 2000 to 2019, the annual stillbirth reduction rate was just 2.3 per cent, compared to a 2.9 per cent reduction in neonatal mortality, and 4.3 per cent in mortality among children aged one to 59 months, according to the report.
However, the study maintains that with sound policy, programmes and investment, progress is possible.
“The tragedy of stillbirth shows how vital it is to reinforce and maintain essential health services, and how critical it is to increase investment in nurses and midwives”, the WHO chief upheld.
Because pregnant women need continued access to quality care, throughout their pregnancy and during childbirth, Dr. Pate stressed, “we are supporting countries in strengthening their health systems to prevent stillbirths and ensure that every pregnant woman can access quality health care services”.