World Health Organization Corporate news releases, statements, and notes for media issued by the World Health Organization.

  • Suspension of supply of COVID-19 vaccine (COVAXIN®)
    on Apr 4 2022 at 09:59

    Suspension of supply of Covaxin produced by Bharat, through UN procurement agencies and recommending to countries that received the vaccine to take actions as appropriate.

  • WHO, Qatar, FIFA leaders agree actions to promote health at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™
    on Apr 1 2022 at 15:05

    As part of a unique global partnership to promote health, the senior leadership of the World Health Organization (WHO), the State of Qatar and FIFA today agreed a range of measures that will be implemented at this year’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ to protect and encourage health; and take lessons learned from the first tournament in the Middle East and Arab world to share with future mega sporting events.The heads of WHO, Qatar Ministry of Public Health, FIFA and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) met together for the first Steering Committee meeting of the “Healthy FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ – Creating Legacy for Sport and Health” partnership. Launched in late 2021, the partnership is committed to:protecting the health of all those involved in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™: FIFA, WHO and Qatar have teamed up to ensure the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ is a healthy and safe event from the implementation of precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to the provision of healthy menu options;using the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ as a platform to promote healthy lifestyles:The tournament will inspire millions around the world to play more football and be more active including a global campaign to raise awareness of the health benefits of physical activity. The State of Qatar have also signed a 3-year partnership with WHO to improve healthcare access and promote healthy lifestyles across the country; andcreating a blueprint to protect and promote health at future mass gatherings: The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™represents a unique opportunity to develop a new approach to organizing mega sports events factoring-in lessons learnt from the pandemic and reinforcing sports and health as a pathway for recovery."The State of Qatar is proud to be the first country from the Middle East to host the FIFA World Cup,” said HE Dr Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari, Qatar’s Minister of Public Health and Chair of the Steering Committee Meeting. “Our overall goal is not just to hold a successful sporting event, but to also show how football and sports in general can be drivers of better health for all people. This is why we are working so closely with WHO, FIFA and the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy.”At today’s meetings, the Steering Committee leaders agreed a range of action areas to be taken for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ and future events, including:build on actions taken at the FIFA Arab Cup™ in late 2021, strengthen health emergency preparedness and ensure maintenance of precautionary measures for containing infectious diseases, including COVID-19, to keep people safe and healthy;provide healthy food options inside stadiums and fan zones; enhance tobacco prevention in stadiums, fan zones and other areas;start collaborative agreements with countries to benchmark legacy building activities; andexchange lessons learned with the International Olympic Committee for Paris 2024 and Milano Cortina 2026.“WHO is committed to working with the State of Qatar and FIFA to leverage the global power of football to help people lead the healthiest lives possible,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This partnership will help to make the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 a role model for healthy sporting events.” The first-of-its-kind agreement was also lauded by FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who said, “It’s important that the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East will be the healthiest World Cup ever. Here, we put our efforts together through this innovative partnership to promote health in a different way, using the power of football to communicate certain messages. We have been working together on different awareness campaigns and what better platform now than the FIFA World Cup for passing the Health for All message?"“You have to do whatever you can to protect your health and that of those around you. That is part of education and that is why we are proud to be part of this team here. We need health for football, and we need football for health. Let’s win this World Cup, our World Cup, which is a World Cup of humanity in the end,” Mr Infantino added.As part of the agreement, two SC legacy programmes – Generation Amazing and B4Development (B4D) – will provide operational and technical collaboration on a range of projects. Generation Amazing is a football for development programme that has positively impacted more than 725 000 people globally since being launched during Qatar’s bid to host the FIFA World Cup™, while B4D is the region’s first “nudge unit” that utilizes behavioural science to solve a range of societal issues. H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi, SC Secretary General, said, “As FIFA World Cup hosts, Qatar has worked to underscore the importance of leaving sustainable and transformative social legacies that improve lives – in Qatar, within our region and around the world.” “This partnership is critical for us as we prepare for hosting the world at the end of this year in the context of the pandemic, which has affected so many lives around the world.  We’re engaging in every effort along with local and international partners to ensure a healthy and safe FIFA World Cup.”“Together, our work with FIFA and WHO will add to our current efforts, including projects delivered by our legacy programmes such as Generation Amazing and B4Development, to ensure the first FIFA World Cup in our region serves as a benchmark for future mega-events across the globe,” he added. Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, reinforced the Organization’s commitment to advancing health for all in the Region, and said that the partnership between WHO and Qatar would support improvements in physical activity, mental health and organized sports. “WHO looks forward to working closely with Qatar in the months ahead to use the platform that sporting events offer to bring people together and foster solidarity, which is the core of our regional vision of 'Health for all by all: a call for solidarity and action', while at the same time promoting healthier habits, from diet to physical activity, for people of all ages, genders and cultures.”

  • Billions of people still breathe unhealthy air: new WHO data
    on Apr 1 2022 at 09:44

    Almost the entire global population (99%) breathes air that exceeds WHO air quality limits, and threatens their health. A record number of over 6000 cities in 117 countries are now monitoring air quality, but the people living in them are still breathing unhealthy levels of fine particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, with people in low and middle-income countries suffering the highest exposures.

  • WHO’s training for caregivers of children with autism goes online
    on Mar 30 2022 at 17:17

    In the lead-up to World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April, WHO is releasing an online version of its training programme for caregivers of children with developmental delays or disabilities, including autism. The programme, which has already been piloted in face-to-face format in more than 30 countries, such as Brazil, India, Italy and Kenya, teaches parents and other caregivers day-to-day skills that help boost the well-being and development of children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

  • Egypt and Nigeria medicines regulators achieve high maturity level in WHO classification and WHO launches list of regulatory authorities that meet international standards
    on Mar 30 2022 at 13:14

    Today, WHO announced that Egypt’s and Nigeria’s medical products regulatory agencies had reached maturity level 3. This means that these national bodies have been found to function well and that they could be eligible for inclusion into the transitional WHO Listed Authorities, a list that will comprise the world’s regulators of reference – that is, regulatory authorities that should be globally recognized as meeting WHO and other international standards.Egypt has reached maturity level 3 for vaccines regulation (locally produced and imported) and Nigeria for medicines and imported vaccines. The two countries join Ghana and Tanzania as effective regulatory systems on the African continent. Several other African regulators are currently under assessment.   WHO’s assessment of regulatory authorities is based on the ‘ Global Benchmarking Tool’ – an evaluation tool that checks regulatory functions against a set of more than 260 indicators – covering core regulatory functions such as product authorization, testing of products, market surveillance and the ability to detect adverse events – to establish their level of maturity and functionality. Regulatory authorities that reach maturity levels 3 and 4 will be eligible for inclusion among WHO-listed authorities, after additional evaluation of their performance.The benchmarking of Egypt and Nigeria’s regulators was carried out by a WHO-led team of international experts. In February and March 2022, WHO conducted a formal evaluation of the authorities and found them to perform well against most of the indicators in the Global Benchmarking Tool.The importance of regulatory oversight for local manufacturingEgypt and Nigeria were also chosen in February 2022 as recipients of mRNA technology from the WHO mRNA Technology Transfer Hub. Effective and efficient regulatory oversight is critical to efforts to boost manufacturing capacity as they ensure that medical products entering the market are safe, effective and produced according to international quality standards.“Egypt and Nigeria have come a long way to improve their regulatory work and performance,” said Mariangela Simao, WHO Assistant Director General for Access to Health Products. “Given that medical products regulatory oversight and manufacturing must work in tandem, this is very good news for access to quality health products on the African continent.”Regulation of medical products is extremely important for all health systems and for access to quality vaccines, medicines and other health products. Apart from ensuring the quality, safety and efficacy of medical products, regulatory authorities that function well also perform critical functions such as faster authorization of products and safety monitoring after authorization.Fewer than 30% of the world’s regulatory authorities are considered fully functioning and operational. For that reason, WHO has intensified efforts to bolster the capacity to regulate medical products in all regions.WHO listed authoritiesWHO today also announced a transitional WHO-Listed Authorities (WLAs) list. The introduction of a framework for designating and publicly listing a regulatory authority as a WLA aims to provide a transparent and evidence-based pathway for regulatory authorities to be globally recognized as meeting and applying WHO and other internationally recognized standards and guidelines, as well as good regulatory practices.The designation of a regulatory authority as a WLA is intended to promote access and the supply of safe, effective and quality medical products. It also encourages the optimal use of limited resources by facilitating reliance on the work and decisions of mature and advanced agencies in the decision-making of other regulatory authorities, the WHO Prequalification Programme, and procurement bodies.The transitional WLA combines pre-existing lists of Stringent Regulatory Authorities for medicines, highly performing regulatory authorities for vaccines, Regional Reference Authorities for medicines and vaccines in the Americas (AMRO/PAHO), national regulatory authorities operating at maturity levels 3 and 4, and vaccine producing countries with functional regulatory authorities. The WHO Listed Authorities framework will come into full effect pending successful pilots later this year. 

  • WHO releases 10-year strategy for genomic surveillance of pathogens
    on Mar 30 2022 at 09:33

    WHO is releasing a strategy to strengthen and scale up genomic surveillance around the world.Historically, few countries have routinely done genomic surveillance in-country, a technology considered complicated and expensive. But COVID-19 changed that. Genomic surveillance is the process of constantly monitoring pathogens and analyzing their genetic similarities and differences. It helps researchers, epidemiologists and public health officials to monitor the evolution of infectious diseases agents, alert on the spread of pathogens, and develop counter measures like vaccines.The Global genomic surveillance strategy for pathogens with pandemic and epidemic potential 2022–2032 is not specific to a single pathogen or disease threat. It provides a high-level unifying framework to leverage existing capacities, address barriers and strengthen the use of genomic surveillance worldwide. Data collected by WHO show that in March 2021, 54% of countries had this capacity. By January 2022, thanks to the major investments made during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number had increased to 68%. Even greater gains were made in the public sharing of sequence data: in January 2022, 43% more countries published their sequence data compared to a year before. Despite this fast progress, much remains to be done. Any new technology comes with the risk of increasing inequity, which is one of the gaps this strategy targets.Various public health programmes – from Ebola to cholera – use genomic surveillance to understand a pathogen at its molecular level, but COVID-19 has highlighted the challenges of bringing genomics to scale. The complexities of genomics and the challenges of sustaining capacities in different settings, including workforce needs, means that most countries cannot develop these capabilities on their own. The global strategy helps keep our eyes on the horizon and provides a unifying framework for action. WHO looks forward to working with countries and partners in this important and highly dynamic field.     - Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus       WHO Director-General“The complexities of genomics and the challenges of sustaining capacities in different settings, including workforce needs, means that most countries cannot develop these capabilities on their own. The global strategy helps keep our eyes on the horizon and provides a unifying framework for action. WHO looks forward to working with countries and partners in this important and highly dynamic field,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We will do best if we work together.”The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that health systems need genomic surveillance so that risks are rapidly detected and addressed. This technology has been critical in this response, from the identification of a novel coronavirus, to the development of the first diagnostic tests and vaccines, to the tracking and identification of new virus variants. “Genomic surveillance is critical for stronger pandemic and epidemic preparedness and response,” said Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies Programme. “This pandemic has laid bare the fact that we live in an interconnected world and that we are only as strong as our weakest link. Improving global disease surveillance means improving local disease surveillance. That is where we need to act, and this strategy will provide us with the foundation.” Read more about the strategy here.  

  • European Union funding boosts COVID-19 vaccination in Africa
    on Mar 30 2022 at 08:47

    A contribution of €16 million from the European Commission's Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) will help the World Health Organization (WHO) boost COVID-19 vaccination campaigns and increase coverage in 15 African countries, where only 15 percent of the population is vaccinated.The funding is part of the European Union's (EU) humanitarian initiative for COVID-19 vaccination in Africa, which aims to ensure increased access for the most vulnerable and those living in hard-to-reach, remote and conflict-affected areas.The EU also supports the COVAX Facility, the vaccines part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator created to develop and deliver tools to fight the pandemic."Solidarity is key to ending this pandemic and to building back better,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “These are not just words. These principles have been already exemplified by the generous support with vaccines and funding provided by the European Union to the global pandemic response. Together in Europe, in Africa and beyond, WHO and the EU are working with local partners to ensure COVID-19 vaccination reaches the arms of everyone and that lessons learned contribute to resilient health systems.”Read the full Press Release here.

  • The Netherlands and WHO: Partners for health and human rights around the world
    on Mar 28 2022 at 11:32

    Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, Ms Liesje Schreinemacher, met for the first time with Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General in WHO headquarters. The discussions focused on the strategic partnership between WHO and the Netherlands in support of global health security and a healthier world for all.“It was an honor to welcome Minister Schreinemacher, and I express my deep gratitude to the Netherlands for its longstanding partnership with WHO. The Netherlands is a leading voice for health and human rights around the world, defending global access to the full breadth of sexual and reproductive health services, including for vulnerable populations and people living in humanitarian crises,” said Dr Tedros. “The support of the Netherlands for WHO through flexible and catalytic funding enables us to respond quickly and efficiently to global health challenges and health emergencies, including COVID-19, to save lives and prevent suffering."The Netherlands is a key supporter and strategic partner of WHO. It funds crucial activities in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, water and sanitation, mental health in emergencies, emergency preparedness, tuberculosis, One Health, primary health care, antimicrobial resistance, while facilitating cooperation with top Dutch institutions. Between 2020 – 2021, the Netherlands provided over US$ 94 million to WHO, including US$ 16 million in fully flexible Core Voluntary Contributions making it the 4th largest flexible contributor to the Organization. Such support allows WHO to be both agile and strategic in its efforts to achieve the Triple Billion targets and support countries in improving the health and well-being of their populations.The Netherlands is also the fourth largest contributor to WHO’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies, which plays a critical role in helping WHO respond rapidly to disease outbreaks and other health emergencies around the world.Learn more about the partnership between WHO and the Netherlands.

  • WHO urges quality care for women and newborns in critical first weeks after childbirth
    on Mar 28 2022 at 10:08

    Worldwide, more than 3 in 10 women and babies do not currently receive postnatal care in the first days after birth - the period when most maternal and infant deaths occur. Meanwhile the physical and emotional consequences of childbirth – from injuries to recurring pain and trauma - can be debilitating if unmanaged, but are often highly treatable when the right care is given at the right time.

  • WHO establishes the Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in India
    on Mar 25 2022 at 11:35

    The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Government of India today signed an agreement to establish the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine. This global knowledge centre for traditional medicine, supported by an investment of USD 250 million from the Government of India, aims to harness the potential of traditional medicine from across the world through modern science and technology to improve the health of people and the planet.Around 80% of the world’s population is estimated to use traditional medicine. To date, 170 of the 194 WHO Member States have reported the use of traditional medicine, and their governments have asked for WHO’s support in creating a body of reliable evidence and data on traditional medicine practices and products.“For many millions of people around the world, traditional medicine is the first port of call to treat many diseases,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Ensuring all people have access to safe and effective treatment is an essential part of WHO’s mission, and this new center will help to harness the power of science to strengthen the evidence base for traditional medicine. I’m grateful to the Government of India for its support, and we look forward to making it a success.”The term traditional medicine describes the total sum of the knowledge, skills and practices indigenous and different cultures have used over time to maintain health and prevent, diagnose and treat physical and mental illness. Its reach encompasses ancient practices such as acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine and herbal mixtures as well as modern medicines.But today, national health systems and strategies do not yet fully integrate the millions of traditional medicine workers, accredited courses, health facilities, and health expenditures.“It is heartening to learn about the signing of the Host Country Agreement for the establishment of Global Centre for Traditional Medicine (GCTM). The agreement between Ministry of Ayush and World Health Organization (WHO) to establish the WHO-GCTM at Jamnagar, Gujarat, is a commendable initiative,” said HE (Mr) Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India.“Through various initiatives, our government has been tireless in its endeavour to make preventive and curative healthcare, affordable and accessible to all. May the global centre at Jamnagar help in providing the best healthcare solutions to the world.”Traditional medicine is also increasingly prominent in the world of modern science.Some 40% of approved pharmaceutical products in use today derive from natural substances, highlighting the vital importance of conserving biodiversity and sustainability. For example, the discovery of aspirin drew on traditional medicine formulations using the bark of the willow tree, the contraceptive pill was developed from the roots of wild yam plants and child cancer treatments have been based on the rosy periwinkle. Nobel-prize winning research on artemisinin for malaria control started with a review of ancient Chinese medicine texts.There has been a rapid modernization of the ways traditional medicine is being studied. Artificial intelligence is now used to map evidence and trends in traditional medicine and to screen natural products for pharmacokinetic properties. Functional magnetic resonance imaging is used to study brain activity and the relaxation response that is part of some traditional medicine therapies such as meditation and yoga, which are increasingly drawn on for mental health and wellbeing in stressful times.In addition, traditional medicine use has also been updated by mobile phone apps, online classes, and other technologies.The new WHO centre will be established in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India. While Jamnagar will serve as the hub, the new centre is being designed to engage and benefit all regions of the world.It will concentrate on building a solid evidence base for policies and standards on traditional medicine practices and products and help countries integrate it as appropriate into their health systems and regulate its quality and safety for optimal and sustainable impact.The new centre focuses on four main strategic areas: evidence and learning; data and analytics; sustainability and equity; and innovation and technology to optimize the contribution of traditional medicine to global health and sustainable development.The onsite launch of the new WHO global centre for traditional medicine in Jamnagar, Gujarat, India will take place on April 21, 2022.For more information, see: who.int/initiatives/who-global-centre-for-traditional-medicine/    

  • EU and WHO join forces to improve global health security and access to medical products and health technologies in Africa
    on Mar 24 2022 at 08:18

    On 23 March 2022, Jutta Urpilainen, European Commissioner for International Partnerships, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, met in Geneva to deliberate on the EU - WHO partnership in global health and the ongoing preparations for a global accord on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. The two senior representatives of the partner organizations signed a letter of intent for a € 24.5 million EU contribution to the World Health Organization, to support the local manufacturing of and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Sub-Saharan Africa.Thanking Commissioner Urpilainen, Dr Tedros commented: ‘’One of the most obvious lessons of the pandemic is the urgent need to increase local production of vaccines, especially in low- and middle-income countries. WHO is grateful to the EU for this new project that will empower African countries and partners to ensure equitable access to safe, effective, quality-assured and affordable essential medicines and other health products for their populations.’’The new initiative is designed to empower African countries and partners such as the African Union to further enable local manufacturing of medical products and health technologies by advancing regulatory convergence across the continent, supporting technology transfer and capacity building for local production, and improving the consolidation of the demand and strategic purchasing of such products.Commissioner Urpilainen and Dr Tedros also noted the rich EU - WHO collaboration to help achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Dr Tedros noted that “WHO is grateful to the EU for its strong and lasting commitment to UHC. Together we provide critical support in 115 countries to ensure that all people, especially the most vulnerable, have access to quality, affordable health services when and where they need them’’. Under the 2019-2022 EU - WHO Partnership for health systems strengthening, the EU had already allocated US$ 168 million to WHO to assist countries in designing and implementing interventions to strengthen national health systems, tackle the threat of COVID-19 and promote an inclusive post-pandemic recovery.During the meeting, the EU and WHO also reviewed the current efforts to improve the global health architecture with a strong WHO at its centre, including through the preparation for a global accord on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. Welcoming the key role of the EU in promoting this initiative, Dr Tedros shared that these discussions represented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to strengthen the global health architecture to protect and promote the well-being of all people.WHO has a longstanding, strategic partnership with the EU, as they work together to support countries in building systems for resilient, sustainable and inclusive development through the promotion of health and wellbeing, strengthening of health systems and preparedness and response to health emergencies. In 2020 - 2021, the EU consolidated its position as the 5th largest WHO contributor with US$ 466 million, confirming its leading role in global health.Read more about the strategic partnership between the EU and WHO

  • France and WHO: Working together for effective, united and inclusive global health governance
    on Mar 23 2022 at 11:44

    On 11 March 2022 the Government of France and WHO convened for their annual strategic dialogue in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting was opened by H.E. Mr Jérôme Bonnafont, Ambassador, Permanent Representative, Professor Jérôme Salomon, Director General of Health, Ministry of Solidarities and Health, and Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, Dr Hans Kluge, Regional Director for Europe and Dr Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director for Africa. The discussions focused on how to strengthen the global architecture, including accelerating equitable access to health technologies within the COVID-19 response via ACT-A; health emergency preparedness and response; the “One-health approach”; the WHO Academy;  Universal health coverage; non-communicable diseases; and mental health. The two partners also discussed concrete measures to enhance cooperation given the development of a new French Global Health Strategy.Her Excellency, Ms Stéphanie Seydoux, French Ambassador for Global Health and Dr Tedros both agreed that the strategic dialogue had a particular resonance this year given the increasingly alarming situation in Ukraine. “As we face an increasingly unstable world, the strategic partnership between France and WHO is ever more important,” said Dr Tedros. “I thank the Government of France for its longstanding commitment to safe, equitable and accessible healthcare for the most vulnerable.”France is a key player in the global health arena and has a long and productive partnership with WHO. In order to support WHO’s key leadership role since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, France’s contributions to WHO doubled from US$ 73 million in 2018-2019, to US$ 141 million in 2020-2021. Moreover, in the last biennium, France became one of the top five contributors of thematic funding and remains one of the donors who continue to support the core voluntary contributions account, providing valuable flexible funding to the Organization. In addition, France has now joined the Contingency Fund for Emergencies, that enables WHO to rapidly respond and disburse supplies and funds anywhere in the world in the event of a health emergency. A leader in supporting innovative initiatives,  in February 2022 France signed a new €50 million contribution agreement with WHO supporting the ACT-Accelerator Health Systems and Response Connector to strengthen health systems to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. “Through our strategic partnership, we are working together to consolidate effective, united and inclusive global health governance” said H.E. Mr Bonnafont. “We were glad to attend this year’s bilateral meeting, that was very fruitful, in person in Geneva,” added H.E. Ms Seydoux. “We covered many concrete areas of discussion and cooperation, in the acutely worrying context, and as we continue to deal with the unprecedented pandemic crisis.” Read more about France’s strategic support to WHO 

  • Learning from women’s experiences during childbirth to improve quality of care
    on Mar 22 2022 at 16:36

    More and more evidence shows that women across the world face unacceptable mistreatment during childbirth. Women everywhere face violations of their rights – including rights to privacy, informed consent, and the right have a trusted companion of choice throughout childbirth. Mistreatment can seriously erode trust in the health facility, which can mean that women are less likely to access facility-based care before, during and after birth.

  • On World TB day WHO calls for increased investments into TB services and research
    on Mar 21 2022 at 13:36

    On World TB Day, WHO calls for an urgent investment of resources, support, care and information into the fight against tuberculosis (TB). Although 66 million lives have been saved since 2000, the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed those gains. For the first time in over a decade, TB deaths increased in 2020. Ongoing conflicts across Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East have further exacerbated the situation for vulnerable populations.Global spending on TB diagnostics, treatments and prevention in 2020 were less than half of the global target of US$ 13 billion annually by 2022. For research and development, an extra US$ 1.1 billion per year is needed. “Urgent investments are needed to develop and expand access to the most innovative services and tools to prevent, detect and treat TB that could save millions of lives each year, narrow inequities and avert huge economic losses,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “These investments offer huge returns for countries and donors, in averted health care costs and increased productivity.”Investments in TB programmes have demonstrated benefits not just for people with TB but for health systems and pandemic preparedness. Building on lessons learnt from COVID-19 research, there is a need to catalyse investment and action to accelerate the development of new tools, especially new TB vaccines.Progress towards reaching the 2022 targets set in the UN High Level Meeting political declaration and the WHO Director-General’s Flagship Initiative Find.Treat.All is at risk mainly due to lack of funding. Between 2018–2020, 20 million people were reached with TB treatment. This is 50% of the 5-year target of 40 million people reached with TB treatment for 2018-2022. During the same period 8.7 million people were provided TB preventive treatment. This is 29% of the target of 30 million for 2018-2022. The situation is even worse for children and adolescents with TB. In 2020, an estimated 63 % of children and young adolescents below 15 years with TB were not reached with or not officially reported to have accessed life-saving TB diagnosis and treatment services; the proportion was even higher - 72% - for children under 5 years. Almost two thirds of eligible children under 5 did not receive TB preventive treatment and therefore remain at risk of illness.COVID-19 has had a further negative and disproportionate impact on children and adolescents with TB or at risk, with increased TB transmission in the household, lower care-seeking and access to health services. WHO is sounding the alarm on World TB Day for countries to urgently restore access to TB services, disrupted due to COVID-19 pandemic for all people with TB, especially children and adolescents.“Children and adolescents with TB are lagging behind adults in access to TB prevention and care”, said Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme. “The WHO guidelines issued today are a gamechanger for children and adolescents, helping them get diagnosed and access care sooner, leading to better outcomes and cutting transmission. The priority now is to rapidly expand implementation of the guidance across countries to save young lives and avert suffering”Updated guidelines for the management of TB in children and adolescents  Updated guidelines for the management of TB in children and adolescents released by WHO today highlight new patient-centred recommendations for diagnosis, treatment and prevention.  The most recent recommendations are:Diagnostic testing has expanded to include non-invasive specimens, such as stools. Rapid molecular diagnostics are recommended as the initial test for TB diagnosis for children and adolescents.Children and adolescents who have non-severe forms of drug-susceptible TB are now recommended to be treated for four months instead of six months, as well as TB meningitis, where a six-month regimen is now recommended instead of 12 months. This promotes a patient-centred approach that will reduce the costs of TB care for children, adolescents and their families.  Two of the newest TB medicines to treat drug resistant TB (bedaquiline and delamanid) are now recommended for use in children of all ages, making it possible for children with drug-resistant TB to receive all-oral treatment regimens regardless of their age.New models of decentralized and integrated TB care are also recommended, which will allow more children and adolescents to access TB care or preventive treatment, closer to where they live. TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers. Each day, over 4 100 people lose their lives to TB and close to 30 000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. Ending TB requires concerted action by all sectors. On World TB Day, WHO calls on everyone- individuals, communities, societies, donors and governments to do their part to end TB.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Note to the editor:WHO is working closely with its offices in Ukraine and neighboring countries, the WHO Regional Office for Europe and partners to rapidly respond to the health emergency triggered by the conflict and to minimize disruptions to the delivery of critical healthcare services. As part of these overarching efforts, given that Ukraine has a high burden of drug-resistant TB, WHO is proactively supporting efforts to enable access to TB care services for the people with TB, refugees and displaced populations at risk. 

  • Stop attacks on health care in Ukraine
    on Mar 13 2022 at 15:39

    “Today, we call for an immediate cessation of all attacks on health care in Ukraine. These horrific attacks are killing and causing serious injuries to patients and health workers, destroying vital health infrastructure and forcing thousands to forgo accessing health services despite catastrophic needs."To attack the most vulnerable – babies, children, pregnant women, and those already suffering from illness and disease, and health workers risking their own lives to save lives – is an act of unconscionable cruelty.“In Ukraine, since the start of the war, 31 attacks on health care have been documented via the WHO’s Surveillance System for Attacks on Health Care (SSA). According to these reports, in 24 incidents health care facilities were damaged or destroyed, while in five cases ambulances were damaged or destroyed. These attacks have led to at least 12 deaths and 34 injuries, and affected access to and availability of essential health services. WHO is verifying further reports, as attacks continue to be reported despite the calls for protection of health care.“Attacks on health care and health workers directly impact people’s ability to access essential health services – especially women, children and other vulnerable groups. We have already seen that the health care needs of pregnant women, new mothers, younger children and older people inside Ukraine are rising, while access to services is being severely limited by the violence.“For example, more than 4,300 births have occurred in Ukraine since the start of war and 80,000 Ukrainian women are expected to give birth in next three months. Oxygen and medical supplies, including for the management of pregnancy complications, are running dangerously low.“The health care system in Ukraine is clearly under significant strain, and its collapse would be a catastrophe. Every effort must be made to prevent this from happening.“International humanitarian and human rights law must be upheld, and the protection of civilians must be our top priority.“Humanitarian partners and health care workers must be able to safely maintain and strengthen essential health service delivery, including immunization against COVID-19 and polio, and the supply of life-saving medicines for civilians across Ukraine as well as to refugees crossing into neighbouring countries. Health services should be systematically available at border crossings, including rapid care and referral processes for children and pregnant women.  “It is critical that humanitarian actors have safe and unimpeded access to reach ALL civilians in need wherever they may be. UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO are working with partners to scale up life-saving services and support to meet urgent health needs. We must be able to safely deliver emergency medical supplies – including those required for obstetric and neonatal care – to health centers, temporary facilities and underground shelters.“Health care and services should be protected from all acts of violence and obstruction. Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has already put health systems and health care workers under enormous strain, such attacks have the potential to be even more devastating for the civilian population. For the sake of health workers, and for all people in Ukraine who need access to the lifesaving services they provide, attacks on all health care and other civilian infrastructure must stop.“Finally, we call for an immediate ceasefire, which includes unhindered access so that people in need can access humanitarian assistance. A peaceful resolution to end the war in Ukraine is possible.” Signatures:UNICEF Catherine Russell, Executive DirectorUNFPA Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive DirectorWHO Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General 

  • WHO announces Film Festival shortlist and jury, including Sharon Stone, Emilia Clarke, Mia Maestro, Anita Abada, Eddie Ndopu and Dr Eckart von Hirschhausen
    on Mar 10 2022 at 19:01

    More than 1000 film makers from over 110 countries have submitted short films for the 3rd edition of the WHO Health for All Film Festival (HAFF), on themes ranging from the trauma of war to living with COVID-19. Some 70 films have been chosen for the shortlist, which will be reviewed by international actors and development leaders, before the announcement of the winners in mid-May 2022. This large participation from patients, health workers, health activists, NGOs, students, public institutions, as well as from professional film makers, demonstrates the potential of the Festival to contribute to health promotion and education. Including the submissions received in 2022, almost 3500 films have been registered by the festival since its launch in 2020, many specifically made for the initiative.“The success of the WHO Health for All Film Festival mirrors the great interest and heightened awareness globally in the importance of health and ensuring people are able to attain the highest levels of physical and mental well-being,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The wide range of subjects featured in this year’s submissions, and the high calibre of judges, underscores the growing importance of the festival as a platform to bring urgent health issues to the public’s attention.”The following distinguished professionals, artists and activists, joined by three WHO senior experts, comprise this year’s festival jury: Sharon Stone (actor from the United States); Emilia Clarke (actor from the United Kingdom); Mia Maestro (actor from Argentina); Anita Abada (producer from Nigeria); Eddie Ndopu (UN SDGs Advocate from South Africa), and Dr Eckart von Hirschhausen (TV presenter from Germany).The 70 shortlisted films are available to view online in six playlists, one for each of the three main competition categories: Universal Health Coverage, Health emergencies, and Better health and well-being, as well as three more on Rehabilitation, Health innovation and Very Short Films.An additional playlist - out of competition - will be published by the end of March to contribute to the 2022 World Health Day theme of “Our Planet, Our Health”. This playlist will gather submissions from all three HAFF editions, as well as other productions from WHO and other United Nations agencies.A wide range of health topics are covered by the new 2022 selection: trauma of wars; noncommunicable diseases, including mental health issues; disability; malaria; communicable diseases, including COVID-19, HIV-AIDS; as well as environmental and social factors of health, including gender-based violence, road safety and pollution. The benefits of sports and arts on health are also part of this selection.The public is encouraged to choose one of the films that they would like to champion and comment about its story / topic, before 10th of May 2022.  Comments can be posted in their social media using #Film4health or through the YouTube playlists available from the Festival’s website (link below) as well as WHO’s YouTube channel. Some comments from the public will be featured during the HAFF virtual Awards Ceremony in mid-May.In the coming weeks, jurors will review the shortlisted films and recommend winners to the WHO Director-General, who will make the final decision. Three “GRAND PRIX” and four special prizes will be announced mid-May during an online Awards Ceremony followed by a series of online discussions with winners and jurors.For more details on the official selection, the jury composition and further information, please visit https://www.who.int/film-festival  

  • WHO issues new guidelines on abortion to help countries deliver lifesaving care
    on Mar 8 2022 at 13:47

    The World Health Organization (WHO) is releasing new guidelines on abortion care today, in a bid to protect the health of women and girls and help prevent over 25 million unsafe abortions that currently occur each year.“Being able to obtain safe abortion is a crucial part of health care,” said Craig Lissner, acting Director for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research at WHO. “Nearly every death and injury that results from unsafe abortion is entirely preventable. That’s why we recommend women and girls can access abortion and family planning services when they need them.”Based on the latest scientific evidence, these consolidated guidelines bring together over 50 recommendations spanning clinical practice, health service delivery, and legal and policy interventions to support quality abortion care. New recommendations to improve access to high quality, person-centred servicesWhen abortion is carried out using a method recommended by WHO, appropriate to the duration of the pregnancy and assisted by someone with the necessary information or skills, it is a simple and extremely safe procedure. Tragically, however, only around half of all abortions take place under such conditions, with unsafe abortions causing around 39 000 deaths every year and resulting in millions more women hospitalized with complications. Most of these deaths are concentrated in lower-income countries – with over 60% in Africa and 30% in Asia – and among those living in the most vulnerable situations. The guideline includes recommendations on many simple primary care level interventions that improve the quality of abortion care provided to women and girls. These include task sharing by a wider range of health workers; ensuring access to medical abortion pills, which mean more women can obtain safe abortion services, and making sure that accurate information on care is available to all those who need it. For the first time, the guidelines also include recommendations for use where appropriate of telemedicine, which helped support access to abortion and family planning services during the COVID-19 pandemic.Removing unnecessary policy barriers facilitates safe abortion access Alongside the clinical and service delivery recommendations, the guidelines recommend removing medically unnecessary policy barriers to safe abortion, such as criminalization, mandatory waiting times, the requirement that approval must be given by other people (e.g., partners or family members) or institutions, and limits on when during pregnancy an abortion can take place. Such barriers can lead to critical delays in accessing treatment and put women and girls at greater risk of unsafe abortion, stigmatization, and health complications, while increasing disruptions to education and their ability to work.While most countries permit abortion under specified circumstances, about 20 countries provide no legal grounds for abortion. More than 3 in 4 countries have legal penalties for abortion, which can include lengthy prison sentences or heavy fines for people having or assisting with the procedure. “It’s vital that an abortion is safe in medical terms,” said Dr Bela Ganatra, Head of WHO’s Prevention of Unsafe Abortion Unit. “But that’s not enough on its own. As with any other health services, abortion care needs to respect the decisions and needs of women and girls, ensuring that they are treated with dignity and without stigma or judgement. No one should be exposed to abuse or harms like being reported to the police or put in jail because they have sought or provided abortion care." Evidence shows that restricting access to abortions does not reduce the number of abortions that take place. In fact, restrictions are more likely to drive women and girls towards unsafe procedures. In countries where abortion is most restricted, only 1 in 4 abortions are safe, compared to nearly 9 in 10 in countries where the procedure is broadly legal. “The evidence is clear – if you want to prevent unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions, you need to provide women and girls with a comprehensive package of sexuality education, accurate family planning information and services, and access to quality abortion care,” Dr Ganatra added. Following the launch of the guidelines, WHO will support interested countries to implement these new guidelines and strengthen national policies and programmes related to contraception, family planning and abortion services, helping them provide the highest standard of care for women and girls. NotesQuality abortion care is care that is effective – delivered by health workers with the right skills, resources, and information; safe; accessible to all those that need it; timely, and respectful of women and girls’ needs and rights. The WHO abortion care guideline updates the former edition, released in 2012, and consolidates existing and new recommendations. The digital version is available at https://srhr.org/abortioncare  An interactive online database containing comprehensive information on the abortion laws, policies, health standards and guidelines for all countries is available at https://abortion-policies.srhr.org.

  • Interim statement on COVID-19 vaccines in the context of the circulation of the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant from the WHO Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition (TAG-CO-VAC), 08 March 2022
    on Mar 8 2022 at 07:26

    Key messages:The TAG-CO-VAC is reviewing available data to optimize vaccine mediated protection against prevalent circulating variants. The TAG-CO-VAC strongly supports urgent and broad access to current COVID-19 vaccines for primary series and booster doses, particularly for groups at risk of developing severe disease, given that current COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide high levels of protection against severe disease and death, even in the context of the circulation of Omicron.However, to ensure COVID-19 vaccines provide optimal protection into the future, they may need to be updated as new, antigenically distinct variants emerge. The updated vaccines may be monovalent targeting the predominant circulating variant, or multivalent based on different variants.Ideally, COVID-19 vaccines will prevent infection and transmission, in addition to providing protection against severe disease and death. The development of pan SARS-CoV-2 or pansarbecovirus vaccines, as well as the development of vaccines that are able to elicit mucosal immunity, may be desirable options, but the timeframe for their development and production is uncertain. The TAG-CO-VAC continues to encourage COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to generate and provide data to WHO on performance of current and variant-specific COVID-19 vaccines so that they can be considered as part of a broad decision-making framework on COVID-19 vaccine composition, allowing the TAG-CO-VAC to issue more specific advice to WHO on adjustments needed to COVID-19 vaccine strain composition. The World Health Organization, with the support of the Technical Advisory Group on COVID-19 Vaccine Composition (TAG-CO-VAC), continues to review and assess the public health implications of emerging SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern (VOC) on the performance of COVID-19 vaccines. Since the publication of the interim statement on COVID-19 vaccines on 11 January 2022, Omicron has become the dominant VOC globally, rapidly replacing other circulating variants. This statement highlights the global epidemiological situation, challenges of updating vaccine composition and provides the current position of the TAG-CO-VAC.   Epidemiological situationThe current global epidemiological situation is characterized by rapid and relatively synchronous dominance of Omicron variant in all six WHO regions. While global cases are declining, there are reduced testing resources and capacities in some areas and the epidemiological situation remains heterogeneous, with a number of regions and countries reporting increases in new weekly cases, while others are now reporting declines.Omicron is comprised of several genetically related sublineages, including BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3, each of which is being monitored by WHO and partners. At a global level, BA.1 has been the predominant Omicron lineage, however, the proportion of reported sequences designated as BA.2 has been increasing relative to BA.1 in recent weeks, and is the predominant Omicron lineage in several countries. BA.1 and BA.2 have some genetic differences, which may make them antigenically distinct. Reinfection with BA.2 following infection with BA.1 has been documented, however, initial data from population-level studies suggest that infection with BA.1 provides substantial protection against reinfection with BA.2, at least for the limited period for which data are available. For more details on the Omicron sublineages, please refer to the statement by WHO on the Omicron sublineage BA.2 , published on 22 February 2022.Updating current COVID-19 vaccinesThe public health goal of COVID-19 vaccination prioritizes protection against severe disease and death. Current vaccines appear to confer high levels of protection against severe disease outcomes associated with Omicron infection. The TAG-CO-VAC therefore strongly supports urgent and broad access to current COVID-19 vaccines for primary series and booster doses, particularly for groups at risk of developing severe disease. The near- and medium-term supply of the available vaccines has increased substantially, however, vaccine equity remains an important challenge and all efforts to address such inequities are strongly encouraged.The first interim statement from the TAG-CO-VAC highlighted the need for the development of vaccines that provide protection against infection and prevent transmission, in addition to the protection from severe disease and death, as a means to achieve a greater public health impact from COVID-19 vaccination. In this context, vaccines that are able to elicit mucosal immunity, in addition to systemic immunity, are an important goal. One of the options proposed in the first statement was the development of pan SARS-CoV-2 or pansarbecovirus vaccines. Such vaccines would provide protection that would effectively be variant-proof, and work in this area should be accelerated.  Current vaccines are based on the virus that circulated early in the pandemic (ancestral virus e.g. GISAID: hCoV-19/Wuhan/WIV04/2019). Since then, there has been continuous and substantial virus evolution and it is likely that this evolution will continue, resulting in the emergence of new variants. The composition of current COVID-19 vaccines may therefore need to be updated. Any update to current COVID-19 vaccine composition would aim to, at a minimum, retain protection against severe disease and death, while ensuring the breadth of the immune response against circulating and emerging variants, which may be antigenically distinct.  The TAG-CO-VAC considered a number of issues, all of which are important in any decision on COVID-19 vaccine composition:There are heterogeneous levels of population immunity between countries due to different waves of VOCs and different types, levels and timing of vaccination, but robust data on the global immunologic landscape are limited. The performance of any updated vaccine(s) may vary depending on the nature and magnitude of previously acquired immunity.When updated vaccines become available, a substantial proportion of the global population will have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, either as a result of vaccination and/or prior infection. As above, the performance of any updated vaccine(s) may vary depending on the nature and magnitude of previously acquired immunity.There are also considerable uncertainties as to how the virus will continue to evolve and the antigenic characteristics of future variants. Given widespread transmission of Omicron globally, the possibility of its continued evolution is high and a new variant may emerge before an updated vaccine can be produced and delivered at scale.WHO is tracking lineages under the ‘umbrella’ of Omicron, including BA.1 and BA.2. Though data are emerging, additional antigenic and virologic characterization of these lineages is needed both independently and in comparison, to the other lineages. While the body of evidence on the immune response to Omicron following infection is rapidly growing, data on breadth, magnitude, and durability of humoral and cell-mediated immune responses to variants from variant-specific candidate vaccines using different vaccine platforms remain limited.In addition to the current COVID-19 vaccines, there are many other COVID-19 vaccines in various stages of clinical and preclinical development. Any decision from the TAG-CO-VAC on COVID-19 vaccine composition would apply primarily to current COVID-19 vaccines. Position of the TAG-CO-VACThe TAG-CO-VAC welcomes, where feasible, the development and initiation of clinical trials on variant-specific candidate vaccines against WHO-designated VOCs, including Omicron. In this context, the TAG-CO-VAC is seeking evidence of robust homologous immune responses in primed and unprimed individuals and cross-reactivity data in primed individuals. The TAG-CO-VAC encourages collection of data following one and two doses of any modified vaccine across a variety of relevant vaccine platforms.The TAG-CO-VAC continues to encourage COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to generate and provide data to WHO on the performance of current and variant-specific candidate COVID-19 vaccines, including the breadth, magnitude, and durability of humoral and cell-mediated immune responses to variants through monovalent and/or multivalent vaccines. The TAG-CO-VAC will carefully consider these data as part of a broader decision-making framework on COVID-19 vaccine composition, allowing the TAG-CO-VAC to issue more specific advice on any adjustments that may be needed to COVID-19 vaccine strain composition, developed either as a monovalent vaccine targeting the predominant circulating variant(s) or a multivalent vaccine derived from different variants.The TAG-CO-VAC recognizes the independent role and procedures of relevant regulatory authorities in establishing the necessary requirements for evaluation under the currently established regulatory pathways, and the role of WHO in ensuring alignment, collaboration and a continuous exchange of information between WHO and its expert groups, the TAG-CO-VAC, regulatory authorities, and COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers.The statement reflects the current vaccine performance and landscape of vaccine development. The statement will therefore be updated as data become available.  

  • Act now to save lives and prevent migrants from going missing
    on Mar 7 2022 at 17:37

    As heads of the United Nations Network on Migration’s Executive Committee, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Commission on Missing Persons, we call on States to urgently assume collective responsibility to save lives and prevent migrants from going missing or dying along migration routes and to search for and identify those who have gone missing and to assist their families.

  • Eighth Meeting of the Multilateral Leaders Task Force on COVID-19, 1 March 2022: "Third Consultation with the CEOs of leading vaccine manufacturers"
    on Mar 7 2022 at 13:25

    The heads of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization held high-level consultations with UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Lead Coordinator for the COVID-19 Vaccine Country Readiness and Delivery and the CEOs of leading vaccine manufacturers on 1 March 2022 aimed at ensuring the rapid delivery of vaccines to where they are needed the most and putting those vaccines into arms. The Multilateral Leaders Task Force issued the following statement: "In the past few months, we have seen unprecedented levels of disease transmission across the world due to the Omicron variant. Still, unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments is rampant, prolonging the pandemic. 23 countries are yet to fully vaccinate 10% of their populations, 73 countries are yet to achieve 40% coverage and many more are projected to miss the 70% target by middle of this year. The biggest challenges are in low-income countries (LICs), which are concentrated in Africa. Only 7% of people in LICs have been fully vaccinated, compared with 73% in high-income countries. Safeguarding the health of people living in the world’s poorest countries in the face of a changing pandemic is a key priority. We must and can ensure that these countries have the access, the means, and the capacity to vaccinate their populations, especially those who are most at risk. Despite the challenges, there has been progress. The vaccine supply constraints from last year have eased, and export restrictions are not currently an issue. Our efforts must now focus on supporting countries to increase vaccination rates. There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach as each country faces different political, administrative, and capacity challenges. Insufficient health care infrastructure, including warehouses, cold chain capacity; lack of trained vaccinators; complexities associated with the management of multiple vaccines; lack of data systems to support vaccination campaigns; and misinformation and vaccine hesitancy are common hurdles that governments must confront. But we have good lessons to draw on from countries around the world that have managed to overcome obstacles and rollout vaccination campaigns, including from low-income countries. Sustained investment in geographically diversified manufacturing capacity and new technologies for vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics is key for ensuring more equitable, affordable, and timely access to tools for developing countries. In this context, we welcome the work of the leading vaccine manufacturers in exploring and undertaking new partnerships and call for them to work closely with international organizations (IOs) and countries to capitalize on practical solutions, sharing licenses, technology and know-how. A top priority to end the pandemic is deploying financing quickly to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines in low- and middle-income countries. Fully funding the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is critical. As vaccine supply increases in 2022, close coordination among all stakeholders will be crucial to aligning supply with demand, reducing supply fragmentation, and deploying vaccines in the most effective way. We must adjust to constantly evolving challenges and keep working together. As the late Dr Paul Farmer said: "Any time there's a new tool developed – whether they are vaccines or therapeutics – there must also be a delivery plan." Let us acknowledge the importance of delivery, as this is where lives are saved, families are kept whole, children continue their education, communities stay strong, and economies grow." About the Multilateral Leaders Task Force This joint initiative of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank Group, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization aims to support the roll out of COVID-19 tools by leveraging multilateral finance and trade solutions, particularly for low and middle-income countries. It supports the goals of the ACT-Accelerator and complementary initiatives in the delivery of COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics, and PPE.    

  • Joint statement on the prioritization of monitoring SARS-CoV-2 infection in wildlife and preventing the formation of animal reservoirs
    on Mar 7 2022 at 09:22

    As we enter the third year of the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is spreading between people at an intense  level globally.  There are many factors that are driving transmission. One of these is the emergence of highly transmissible variants of concern, the latest being Omicron.  The virus continues to evolve and the risk of future emergence of variants is high.Although the COVID-19 pandemic is driven by human-to-human transmission, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is also known to infect animal species. Current knowledge indicates that wildlife does not play a significant role in the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in humans, but spread in animal populations can affect the health of these populations and may facilitate the emergence of new virus variants. In addition to domestic animals, free-ranging, captive or farmed wild animals such as big cats, minks, ferrets, North American white-tailed deer and great apes have thus far been observed to be infected with SARS-CoV-2. To date, farmed mink and pet hamsters have been shown to be capable of infecting humans with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and a potential case of transmission between white-tailed deer and a human is currently under review. The introduction of SARS-CoV-2 to wildlife could result in the establishment of animal reservoirs. For example, it has been reported that, approximately one-third of wild white-tailed deer in the United States of America have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, initially via several human-to-deer transmission events. The SARS-CoV-2 lineages detected in white-tailed deer have also been circulating in close-by human populations. White-tailed deer have been shown to shed virus and transmit it between each other.FAO, OIE and WHO call on all countries to take steps to reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission between humans and wildlife with the aim of reducing the risk of variant emergence and for protecting both humans and wildlife. We urge authorities to adopt relevant regulations and disseminate previously released recommendations by FAO, OIE and WHO to (1) people working in close contact with or handling wildlife, including hunters and butchers; and (2) the public.Personnel working closely with wildlife should be trained to implement measures that reduce the risk of transmission between people and between people and animals, using WHO advice on how to protect oneself and prevent the spread of COVID-19, and OIE and FAO guidelines on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and good hygiene practices around animals, including good hygiene practices for hunters and butchers. Current evidence suggests that humans are not infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus by eating meat. However, hunters should not track animals that appear sick or harvest those that are found dead. Appropriate butchering and food preparing techniques, including proper hygiene practices, can limit transmission of coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, and other zoonotic pathogens. FAO, OIE and WHO stress that the public should be educated about contact with wildlife. Some wild animals may come close to human settlements and residential areas. As a general precaution, people should not approach or feed wild animals or touch or eat those that are orphaned, sick or found dead (including road kills). Instead, they should contact local wildlife authorities or a wildlife health professional.It is also crucial to safely dispose of uneaten food, masks, tissues, and any other human waste to avoid attracting wildlife, especially to urban areas and, if possible, keep domestic animals away from wildlife and their droppings. We furthermore encourage countries’ national animal and human health services to adopt the following measures:Encourage collaboration between national veterinary services and national wildlife authorities, whose partnership is key to promoting animal health and safeguarding human and environmental health.Promote monitoring of wildlife and encourage sampling of wild animals known to be potentially susceptible to SARS-CoV-2.Share all genetic sequence data from animal surveillance studies through publicly available databases. Report confirmed animal cases of SARS-CoV-2 to the OIE through the World Animal Health Information System (OIE-WAHIS).Craft messages about SARS-CoV-2 in animals with care so that inaccurate public perceptions do not negatively impact conservation efforts. No animal found to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 should be abandoned, rejected, or killed without providing justification from a country- or event-specific risk assessment.OIE and WHO also recommend countries to suspend the sale of captured live wild mammals in food markets as an emergency measure.  Our organizations emphasize the importance of monitoring mammalian wildlife populations for SARS-CoV-2 infection, reporting results to National Veterinary Services (who report these findings to the OIE) and sharing genomic sequencing data on publicly available databases. Countries should also adopt precautions to reduce the risk of establishment of animal reservoirs and potential acceleration of virus evolution in novel hosts, which could lead to the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants. Such measures will preserve the health of precious wildlife as well as humans.We invite governments and other stakeholders to bring the contents of this joint statement to the attention of competent authorities and all parties concerned.Note: This statement was originally published on 7 March 2022. An update was made on 21 March 2022.   

  • WHO updates its treatment guidelines to include molnupiravir
    on Mar 2 2022 at 19:48

    This ninth update of WHO’s guideline on therapeutics includes a recommendation that casirivimab-imdevimab not be used for patients infected with the Omicron variantWHO has updated its living guidelines on COVID-19 therapeutics to include a conditional recommendation on molnupiravir, a new antiviral medicine. This is the first oral antiviral drug to be included in the treatment guidelines for COVID-19. As this is a new medicine, there is little safety data. WHO recommends active monitoring for drug safety, along with other strategies to mitigate potential harms.Because of these concerns and data gaps, molnupiravir should be provided only to non-severe COVID-19 patients with the highest risk of hospitalization. These are typically people who have not received a COVID-19 vaccination, older people, people with immunodeficiencies and people living with chronic diseases. Children, and pregnant and breastfeeding women should not be given the drug. People who take molnupiravir should have a contraceptive plan, and health systems should ensure access to pregnancy testing and contraceptives at the point of care. Under the care of a health care provider, molnupiravir, an oral tablet, is given as four tablets (total 800 mg) twice daily for five days; within 5 days of symptom onset. Used as early as possible after infection, it can help prevent hospitalization.Today’s recommendation is based on new data from six randomized controlled trials involving 4796 patients. This is the largest dataset on this drug so far.Along with a recommendation on molnupiravir, this ninth update of WHO’s living guideline on therapeutics includes an update on casirivimab-imdevimab, a monoclonal antibody cocktail. Based on evidence that this combination of drugs is ineffective against the Omicron variant of concern, WHO now recommends that it is only given when the infection is caused by another variant.Molnupiravir is not widely available but steps have been taken towards increasing access, including the signing of a voluntary licensing agreement. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) is making a limited supply available to countries with access constraints. WHO has also invited manufacturers to submit their products for prequalification, with a number of manufacturers of molnupiravir going through assessment now. WHO evaluates the quality, safety and efficacy of medical products for United Nations and other large suppliers to low- and middle-income countries. More WHO quality-assured manufacturers mean that countries have a greater choice of products and more competitive prices.    

  • World Obesity Day 2022 – Accelerating action to stop obesity
    on Mar 2 2022 at 15:45

    More than 1 billion people worldwide are obese – 650 million adults, 340 million adolescents and 39 million children. This number is still increasing. WHO estimates that by 2025, approximately 167 million people – adults and children – will become less healthy because they are overweight or obese.On the occasion of World Obesity Day 2022, WHO is urging countries to do more to reverse this predictable and preventable health crisis.Obesity is a disease impacting most body systems. It affects the heart, liver, kidneys,  joints, and reproductive system. It leads to a range of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, various forms of cancer, as well as mental health issues. People with obesity are also three times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19. The key to preventing obesity is to act early, ideally even before a baby is conceived. Good nutrition in pregnancy, followed by exclusive breastfeeding until the age of 6 months and continued breastfeeding until 2 years and beyond, is best for all infants and young children. At the same time, countries need to work together to create a better food environment so that everyone can access and afford a healthy diet. Effective steps include restricting the marketing to children of food and drinks high in fats, sugar and salt, taxing sugary drinks, and providing better access to affordable, healthy food. Cities and towns need to make space for safe walking, cycling, and recreation, and schools need to help households teach children healthy habits from early on.WHO is responding to the global obesity crisis on many fronts. This includes monitoring global trends and prevalence, the development of a broad range of guidance addressing the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity, and providing implementation support and guidance for countries. Following a request from Member States, the WHO secretariat is developing an acceleration action plan to stop obesity, tackle the epidemic in high burden countries and catalyse global action. The plan will be discussed at the 76 World Health Assembly to be held in May 2022. World Obesity Day 2022 - Message from Dr Tedros, Director-General of WHO

  • World leaders and experts call for action to protect the environment from antimicrobial pollution
    on Mar 2 2022 at 11:53

    World leaders and experts today called for global action to reduce antimicrobial pollution recognising this as critical to combatting rising levels of drug resistance and protecting the environment. The Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance today called on all countries to reduce the amount of antimicrobial waste entering the environment. This includes researching and implementing measures to safely dispose of antimicrobial waste from food, human health and animal health systems, and manufacturing facilities.The call comes ahead of the UN Environment Assembly which takes place in Nairobi and online from 28 February to 2 March 2022 where countries will discuss the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.The Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance includes heads of state, government ministers, and leaders from private sector and civil society. The group was established in November 2020 to accelerate global political momentum, leadership and action on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and is co-chaired by Their Excellencies Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, and Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh.Antimicrobial drug waste is polluting the environmentThe Global Leaders Group’s call to action calls for all countries to improve measures  for the management and disposal of antimicrobial-containing waste and runoff from manufacturing sites, farms, hospitals and other sources.Antimicrobials given to humans, animals and plants are entering the environment and water sources (including drinking water sources) via wastewater, waste, run-off and sewage and through this spreading drug-resistant organisms and antimicrobial resistance.This could fuel a rise in the emergence and spread of ‘superbugs’ that are resistant to several types of antimicrobial drugs [1]. It could also harm organisms in the environment.Reducing the amount of antimicrobial pollution entering the environment is crucial to conserving the effectiveness of antimicrobial medicines  The Global Leaders Group calls for all countries to develop and implement regulations and standards to better monitor and control the distribution and release of antimicrobials and drug-resistant organisms into the environment.Other key actions include:In the manufacturing sector, developing national antimicrobial manufacturing pollution standards to better control and monitor antimicrobial pollution.In the human and animal health sector, enforcing laws and policies to reduce or eliminate antimicrobial use that is not under the guidance of a trained healthcare provider.In food systems, implementing standards to treat and manage discharge from food-animal farms, aquaculture farms and crop fields.Inaction will have dire consequences for human, animal, plant and environmental health Antimicrobial drugs, including antibiotics, antifungals and antiparasitics, are used in human and veterinary medicine all over the world. They are used to treat and prevent diseases in humans and animals, and sometimes in food production to promote growth in healthy animals. Antimicrobial pesticides are also used in agriculture to treat and prevent diseases in plants.Current antimicrobial drug usage in humans, animals and plants is leading to a concerning rise in drug-resistance and making infections harder to treat.Drug-resistant microbes and disease-causing pathogens can pass between humans, animals, plants and food, and in the environment. The climate crisis may also be contributing to a rise in antimicrobial resistance. [2]Drug-resistant diseases contribute to nearly 5 million deaths every year. Urgent action is needed to curb the rise and spread of antimicrobial resistance across all countries. Without action, the world is rapidly approaching a tipping point where the antimicrobials needed to treat infections in humans, animals and plants will no longer be effective.The impact on local and global health systems, economies, food security and food systems will be devastating.“The connections between antimicrobial resistance, environmental health and the climate crisis are becoming increasingly stark.” says co-chair of the Global Leader Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, Her Excellency Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados. “We must act now to protect the environment, and people everywhere, from the damaging effects of antimicrobial pollution.’’Understanding and managing global antimicrobial pollution should be a priority for all countries While the exact scale of global antimicrobial pollution is unknown, evidence indicates that it could have significant impacts on antimicrobial resistance. For example, multi-drug resistant bacteria are already prevalent in marine waters and sediments close to aquaculture, industrial and municipal discharges. [3]People in all countries can play a role by ensuring they dispose of expired and unused medicines correctly.Investors can also contribute by investing in the research and development of cost-effective and greener waste management technologies._____________________________________________________[1] UNEP (2017). ‘Frontiers 2017 Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern’. Available here.[2] Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance. (2021) ’Antimicrobial Resistance and the Climate Crisis’. Available here. [3] UNEP (2017). ‘Frontiers 2017 Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern’. Available here. Notes to Editors:Reducing Antimicrobial Discharges from Food Systems, Manufacturing Facilities and Human Health Systems into the Environment Call to Action by the Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance March 2022Disposal of untreated or inappropriately managed waste and runoff from various sources including food systems, manufacturing facilities and human health systems can contain biologically active antimicrobials, antimicrobial resistant organisms, unmetabolized antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistance determinants (e.g. resistance-conferring genes) that are released into the environment. These discharges can contaminate the environment and contribute to the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The most important approach to controlling AMR spread from food systems and human health systems is responsible and sustainable use of antimicrobials in humans, terrestrial and aquatic animals and plants/crops.  In addition, adequate measures to treat and safely dispose of waste are required, including human, animal and manufacturing waste.  The GLG commends ongoing efforts - particularly by the G7 countries - to address antimicrobial discharges into the environment and encourages countries to implement the Codex Code of practice to minimize and contain foodborne AMR and Guidelines on Integrated Monitoring and Surveillance of Foodborne Antimicrobial Resistance approved in November 2021. To improve the management of discharges into the environment that may contribute to the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance, the Global Leaders Group calls for the following:  1. STRENGTHENED GOVERNANCE AND OVERSIGHT In general, countries should: Develop or build on and implement regulatory frameworks, guidelines, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and standards to establish safe levels, better control and monitor the distribution and release of antimicrobials, antimicrobial resistant bacteria and antimicrobial resistance determinants from food systems, manufacturing facilities and human health systems into the environment; and Include prevention and management measures in national action plans on AMR to minimize the impacts of environmental discharges. In the manufacturing sector specifically, countries should: Develop and implement legal and policy frameworks with a lifecycle approach for antimicrobials manufacturing. Such an approach considers the entire timespan that a pharmaceutical is active and can impact the surrounding systems, would help to effectively address AMR environmental risks and ensure resilient antibiotic supply chains and stimulate the design, development, manufacture, and commercialization of needed new antibiotics and alternatives to antimicrobials; Promote and develop balanced and staged environmental policies and approaches to manage and regulate manufacturing facilities and support environmental inspections, recognizing the current fragility of supply chains and significant access gaps;  Incentivize industry for compliance and excellence, including highlighting their contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals; and Develop national antimicrobial manufacturing pollution standards based on best available evidence, treatment technology and situational analysis, and strengthen the capacity of environmental authorities to conduct audits and monitor compliance.  In the human health sector specifically, countries should: Develop and implement antimicrobial stewardship policies and protocols in human health systems that include responsible and sustainable use and procurement of antimicrobials, and effective waste management approaches; and Implement and enforce laws and policies to reduce or eliminate antimicrobial use that is not under the guidance of a trained health care provider, while ensuring equitable access to quality antimicrobials. In food systems specifically, countries should:  Develop or build on and implement regulatory frameworks, guidelines, SOPs and standards to effectively treat and/or manage waste discharge from food-producing animal farms, aquaculture farms and crop fields, as well as waste used to irrigate crops and run-off from crop fields; and Develop and implement antimicrobial stewardship policies and protocols in fixed and mobile animal health facilities that include responsible and sustainable use of antimicrobials and effective waste management approaches. 2. IMPROVED SURVEILLANCE AND DATA AVAILABILITYCountries should: Strengthen One Health surveillance of antimicrobial use in, and discharges of antimicrobials and AMR determinants from, food systems, human health systems and manufacturing facilities, as well as in sewage systems.  This should be done taking into account factors such as the need to build on existing systems, cost-effectiveness, data comparability and key knowledge gaps relating to the fate, concentration and impact of discharges on the environment and organisms in the environment (e.g. soil microbes, aquatic organisms). Priority should be given to collecting data that can support targeted action, such as enhanced understanding of risks to human and animal health and the environment and release pathways into the environment, and supporting the development of guidance on waste management approaches and antimicrobial discharge limits; and   Promote industry data disclosure, transparency and public access to waste and wastewater management data and mitigation practices in order to build credibility and public confidence. Data disclosure could initially be made to regulators and independent third parties (for example as part of certification schemes), followed by efforts to enable wider public access to increase awareness and understanding, contribute to ongoing studies and reflect environmental standards in procurement practices.   3. IMPROVED DISCHARGE MANAGEMENTIn general, all countries should: Reduce the need for antimicrobial use through implementation of effective infection prevention and control measures in all sectors, including water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), vaccination, biosecurity and animal husbandry and welfare measures;  Develop, implement and monitor systems for proper segregation, treatment and/or disposal of antimicrobials and antimicrobial-containing substances in all sectors (including antimicrobial feed and human and animal waste); Develop mechanisms for collection and proper disposal of unused and expired antimicrobials from individuals and organizations; and  Ensure availability of affordable and environmentally safe incinerators and innovative technologies for destruction and degradation of unused or expired antimicrobials. In general, relevant international technical organizations and their partners should develop guidance and showcase best practices on proper waste management practices across sectors. In food systems: All countries should: Create and implement manure, wastewater, runoff and farm waste management plans, SOPs, guidance, standards and measures such as composting for manure and its application into agriculture fields; andImplement evidence-based manure management approaches so that manure can continue to be safely used as a natural fertilizer in agriculture fields and support agro-ecological farming practices while minimizing the risks of transfer of antimicrobial resistant bacteria or antimicrobial resistance determinants. International technical organizations should: Expedite the development of tools and guidance to support the implementation of the Codex Code of practice to minimize and contain foodborne AMR and Guidelines on Integrated Monitoring and Surveillance of Foodborne Antimicrobial Resistance along the food chain (e.g. food processing and production facilities, wet markets, slaughterhouses)  to minimize the impacts of antimicrobial discharge into the environment.   Companies involved in the slaughter and processing of food animals should:  Assess current food production practices to implement measures to reduce discharges of by-products, including biocides, into the environment and comply with legal standards and requirements. In the manufacturing sector: Manufacturing companies should: Commit to prevention and management measures to minimize the impacts of manufacturing discharges into the environment. This can be done through effective waste management technologies and practices, adoption and implementation of the common antibiotic manufacturing framework and the proposed independent certification schemes of the AMR Industry Alliance.  All stakeholders should: Evaluate options and support efforts to create an enabling environment that influences and supports investment through incentives and efforts in pharmaceutical waste management without jeopardizing access to antimicrobials. Such evaluations may include an assessment of sustainable procurement policies, inclusion of environmental considerations in good manufacturing practices, environmental risk assessment before antimicrobial authorization and an independent product-certification scheme.  4. RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT International technical, financing and research and development organizations and partners should: Enhance and coordinate research for a comprehensive understanding of risks to human and animal health from the environmental presence of antimicrobials, resistance microbes and mobile genetic elements in discharges, as well as potential hot spots, environmental impacts and antimicrobial resistance pathways, and mitigation measures;  Promote research and development across public and private sectors into cost-effective and greener waste management technologies including methods to remove antimicrobial residues, resistance genes and resistant organisms and other tools (e.g., climate-sensitive incinerators and measurement technologies) and standardized monitoring methods, and support mainstreaming of best practices in process and waste management across sectors; and  Develop policy briefs on antimicrobial resistance and organize policy dialogues among policymakers to support evidence-based policymaking. Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance backgroundThe Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance was established in November 2020 and performs an independent global advisory and advocacy role with the primary objective of maintaining urgency, public support, political momentum and visibility of the AMR challenge on the global agenda. The mission of the group is to collaborate globally with governments, agencies, civil society and the private sector through a One Health approach to advise on and advocate for political action for the mitigation of drug-resistant infections through responsible and sustainable access to and use of antimicrobials.The group is co-chaired by Their Excellencies Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados and is composed of heads of state, serving or former ministers and/or senior government officials acting in their individual capacities, together with senior representatives of foundations, civil society organizations and the private sector. It also includes principals of the Tripartite organizations - the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) - in an ex-officio capacity.The Tripartite Joint Secretariat (TJS), a joint effort by FAO, OIE and WHO, and UNEP, provides Secretariat support for the Group.Background on the UN Environment AssemblyThe UN Environment Assembly is the world’s highest environmental decision-making body. Through its resolutions and calls to action, the Assembly provides leadership and catalyzes intergovernmental action on the environment. Its resumed fifth session (UNEA5.2) will held in Nairobi, Kenya, and online from 28 February to 2 March 2022. 

  • COVID-19 pandemic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide
    on Mar 2 2022 at 09:28

    In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%, according to a scientific brief released by the World Health Organization (WHO) today. The brief also highlights who has been most affected and summarizes the effect of the pandemic on the availability of mental health services and how this has changed during the pandemic. Concerns about potential increases in mental health conditions had already prompted 90% of countries surveyed to include mental health and psychosocial support in their COVID-19 response plans, but major gaps and concerns remain. “The information we have now about the impact of COVID-19 on the world’s mental health is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and do a better job of supporting their populations’ mental health.”Multiple stress factorsOne major explanation for the increase is the unprecedented stress caused by the social isolation resulting from the pandemic. Linked to this were constraints on people’s ability to work, seek support from loved ones and engage in their communities.Loneliness, fear of infection, suffering and death for oneself and for loved ones, grief after bereavement and financial worries have also all been cited as stressors leading to anxiety and depression. Among health workers, exhaustion has been a major trigger for suicidal thinking.Young people and women worst hitThe brief, which is informed by a comprehensive review of existing evidence about the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and mental health services, and includes estimates from the latest Global Burden of Disease study, shows that the pandemic has affected the mental health of young people and that they are disproportionally at risk of suicidal and self-harming behaviours. It also indicates that women have been more severely impacted than men and that people with pre-existing physical health conditions, such as asthma, cancer and heart disease, were more likely to develop symptoms of mental disorders. Data suggests that people with pre-existing mental disorders do not appear to be disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. Yet, when these people do become infected, they are more likely to suffer hospitalization, severe illness and death compared with people without mental disorders. People with more severe mental disorders, such as psychoses, and young people with mental disorders, are particularly at risk. Gaps in careThis increase in the prevalence of mental health problems has coincided with severe disruptions to mental health services, leaving huge gaps in care for those who need it most. For much of the pandemic, services for mental, neurological and substance use conditions were the most disrupted among all essential health services reported by WHO Member States. Many countries also reported major disruptions in life-saving services for mental health, including for suicide prevention. By the end of 2021 the situation had somewhat improved but today too many people remain unable to get the care and support they need for both pre-existing and newly developed mental health conditions. Unable to access face-to-face care, many people have sought support online, signaling an urgent need to make reliable and effective digital tools available and easily accessible. However, developing and deploying digital interventions remains a major challenge in resource-limited countries and settings. WHO and country actionSince the early days of the pandemic, WHO and partners have worked to develop and disseminate resources in multiple languages and formats to help different groups cope with and respond to the mental health impacts of COVID-19. For example, WHO produced a story book for 6-11-year-olds, My Hero is You, now available in 142 languages and 61 multimedia adaptations, as well as a toolkit for supporting older adults available in 16 languages.At the same time, the Organization has worked with partners, including other United Nations agencies, international nongovernmental organizations and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, to lead an interagency mental health and psychosocial response to COVID-19. Throughout the pandemic, WHO  has also worked to promote the integration of mental health and psychosocial support across and within all aspects of the global response.  WHO Member States have recognized the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and are taking action. WHO’s most recent pulse survey on continuity of essential health services indicated that 90% of countries are working to provide mental health and psychosocial support to COVID-19 patients and responders alike. Moreover, at last year’s World Health Assembly, countries emphasized the need to develop and strengthen mental health and psychosocial support services as part of strengthening preparedness, response and resilience to COVID-19 and future public health emergencies. They adopted the updated Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030, which includes an indicator on preparedness for mental health and psychosocial support in public health emergencies. Step up investmentHowever, this commitment to mental health needs to be accompanied by a global step up in investment. Unfortunately, the situation underscores a chronic global shortage of mental health resources that continues today. WHO’s most recent Mental Health Atlas showed that in 2020, governments worldwide spent on average just over 2% of their health budgets on mental health and many low-income countries reported having fewer than 1 mental health worker per 100 000 people. Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use at WHO, sums up the situation: ”While the pandemic has generated interest in and concern for mental health, it has also revealed historical under-investment in mental health services. Countries must act urgently to ensure that mental health support is available to all.” 



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