World Health Organization Corporate news releases, statements, and notes for media issued by the World Health Organization.
Statement on the fourth meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
on Aug 3 2020 at 12:48
The fourth meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) took place on Friday, 31 July 2020 from 12:00 to 17:45 Geneva time (CEST). Proceedings of the meetingMembers and advisors of the Emergency Committee were convened by videoconference.The Director-General welcomed the Committee, highlighted the advances in global understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus since the declaration of the public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) on 30 January 2020, and outlined key areas where further attention by the Emergency Committees is needed.Representatives of the legal department and the Department of Compliance, Risk Management, and Ethics (CRE) briefed the members on their roles and responsibilities. The Ethics Officer from CRE provided the members and advisers with an overview of the WHO Declaration of Interest process. The members and advisers were made aware of their individual responsibility to disclose to WHO, in a timely manner, any interests of a personal, professional, financial, intellectual or commercial nature that may give rise to a perceived or direct conflict of interest. They were additionally reminded of their duty to maintain the confidentiality of the meeting discussions and the work of the committee. Each member who was present was surveyed and no conflicts of interest were identified.The Secretariat turned the meeting over to the Chair, Professor Didier Houssin. Professor Houssin also welcomed the Committee and reviewed the objectives and agenda of the meeting. The WHO Regional Emergency Directors and the Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme (WHE) provided regional and the global situation overview. WHO continues to assess the global risk level of COVID-19 to be very high. Dr David Heymann, chair of the WHE Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Infectious Hazards (STAG-IH), presented on national best practices and global COVID-19 experiences. Dr Johanna Jordaan presented an overview of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce (Central African RepublicT)’s report and public health focused recommendations. The Committee expressed appreciation for WHO and partners’ COVID-19 pandemic response efforts. The Committee noted progress made on the Temporary Recommendations issued on 1 May 2020 and examined additional areas that require further attention. The Committee highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of this COVID-19 pandemic, noting the importance of sustained community, national, regional, and global response efforts. The Committee encouraged all individuals, in particular young people, and communities to continue to play an active role in preventing and controlling transmission of COVID-19. The Committee recognized that State Parties should enable and support communities and individuals and thus build trust in governments’ response measures. After ensuing discussion, the Committee unanimously agreed that the pandemic still constitutes a public health emergency of international concern and offered advice to the Director-General.The Director-General declared that the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to constitute a PHEIC. He accepted the advice of the Committee to WHO and issued the Committee’s advice to States Parties as Temporary Recommendations under the IHR (2005). The Emergency Committee will be reconvened within three months, at the discretion of the Director-General. The Director-General thanked the Committee for its work.Advice to the WHO SecretariatContinue to distill and rapidly communicate lessons learned and best practices from the COVID-19 pandemic and national intra-action reviews.Continue to coordinate and mobilize global and regional multilateral organizations, partners and networks for robust political commitment and resourcing of COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and response, including for development of vaccines and therapeutics.Provide nuanced, pragmatic guidance on criteria for appropriate COVID-19 response activities to reduce the risk of response fatigue in the context of socio-economic pressures.Continue to support State Parties and partners in conducting active and community-based COVID-19 surveillance, through technical and operational resources, such as guidance, tools, and trainings on case definitions and identification, contact tracing, and death certifications; encourage State Parties to continue reporting relevant data to WHO through platforms such as the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System. Accelerate research into remaining SARS-CoV-2 critical unknowns, such as the animal source and potential animal reservoirs, and improve understanding of the epidemiology and severity of COVID-19 (including its long-term health effects; viral dynamics such as modes of transmission, shedding, potential mutations; immunity and correlates of protection; co-infection; as well as risk factors and vulnerabilities) and the effectiveness of public health measures.Continue to work with partners to counter mis/disinformation and infodemics by developing and disseminating clear, tailored messaging on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects; encourage and support individuals and communities to follow recommended public health and social measures.Support diagnostics, safe and effective therapeutics and vaccines’ rapid and transparent development (including in developing countries) and equitable access through the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator; support all countries to implement the necessary clinical trials and to prepare for the rollout of therapeutics and vaccines.Work with partners to revise WHO’s travel health guidance to reinforce evidence-informed measures consistent with the provisions of the IHR (2005) to avoid unnecessary interference with international travel; proactively and regularly share information on travel measures to support State Parties’ decision-making for resuming international travel.Support State Parties, particularly vulnerable countries, in strengthening their essential health services and accompanying supply chains as well as preparing for and responding to concurrent outbreaks, such as seasonal influenza.Temporary recommendations to State PartiesShare best practices, including from intra-action reviews, with WHO; apply lessons learned from countries that are successfully re-opening their societies (including businesses, schools, and other services) and mitigating resurgence of COVID-19.Support multilateral regional and global organizations and encourage global solidarity in COVID-19 response.Enhance and sustain political commitment and leadership for national strategies and localized response activities driven by science, data, and experience; engage all sectors in addressing the impacts of the pandemic.Continue to enhance capacity for public health surveillance, testing, and contact tracing. Share timely information and data with WHO on COVID-19 epidemiology and severity, response measures, and on concurrent disease outbreaks through platforms such as the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System.Strengthen community engagement, empower individuals, and build trust by addressing mis/disinformation and providing clear guidance, rationales, and resources for public health and social measures to be accepted and implemented. Engage in the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, participate in relevant trials, and prepare for safe and effective therapeutic and vaccine introduction.Implement, regularly update, and share information with WHO on appropriate and proportionate travel measures and advice, based on risk assessments; implement necessary capacities, including at points of entry, to mitigate the potential risks of international transmission of COVID-19 and to facilitate international contact tracing.Maintain essential health services with sufficient funding, supplies, and human resources; prepare health systems to cope with seasonal influenza, other concurrent disease outbreaks, and natural disasters.
COVID-19 Emergency Committee highlights need for response efforts over long term
on Aug 1 2020 at 14:47
The Emergency Committee on COVID-19, convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR), held its fourth meeting on 31 July. In its statement following the meeting, published today, it expressed “appreciation for WHO and partners’ COVID-19 pandemic response efforts, and highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of this COVID-19 pandemic, noting the importance of sustained community, national, regional, and global response efforts.” After a full discussion and review of the evidence, the Committee unanimously agreed that the outbreak still constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) and offered this advice to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.Dr Tedros accepted the advice of the Committee and confirmed that the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to constitute a PHEIC. The Director-General declared a PHEIC—WHO’s highest level of alarm under IHR—on 30 January at a time when there were fewer than 100 cases and no deaths outside China. He issued the Committee’s advice to States Parties as Temporary Recommendations under the IHR. “The pandemic is a once-in-a-century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come," Dr Tedros told the Committee in his opening remarks on Friday. "Many countries that believed they were past the worst are now grappling with new outbreaks. Some that were less affected in the earliest weeks are now seeing escalating numbers of cases and deaths. And some that had large outbreaks have brought them under control." The Committee made a range of recommendations to both WHO and State Parties. It advised WHO to continue to mobilize global and regional multilateral organizations and partners for COVID-19 preparedness and response, to support Member States in maintaining health services, while accelerating the research and eventual access to diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. It advised countries to support these research efforts, including through funding, and to join in efforts to allow equitable allocation of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines by engaging in the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator among other initiatives.The committee also advised countries to strengthen public health surveillance for case identification and contact tracing, including in low-resource, vulnerable, or high-risk settings and to maintain essential health services with sufficient funding, supplies, and human resources. Countries were advised to implement proportionate measures and advice on travel, based on risk assessments, and to review these measures regularly.The Committee’s statement, with further details of the meeting and their recommendations, is available hereA list of the Committee members is available here The Emergency Committee will be reconvened again within three months or earlier, at the discretion of the Director-General.
World Breastfeeding Week 2020 Message
on Jul 31 2020 at 12:24
The theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2020 is “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”. In line with this theme, WHO and UNICEF are calling on governments to protect and promote women’s access to skilled breastfeeding counselling, a critical component of breastfeeding support.
WHO statement on heated tobacco products and the US FDA decision regarding IQOS
on Jul 29 2020 at 15:34
WHO takes this opportunity to remind Member States that are Parties to the WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) of their obligations under the Convention. Heated tobacco products are tobacco products, meaning that the WHO FCTC fully applies to these products. (Decision FCTC/COP8(22)) Specifically, Article 13.4(a) obliges Parties, to prohibit "all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship that promote a tobacco product by any means that are false, misleading or deceptive or likely to create an erroneous impression about its characteristics, health effects, hazards or emissions." WHO reiterates that reducing exposure to harmful chemicals in Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs) does not render them harmless, nor does it translate to reduced risk to human health. Indeed, some toxins are present at higher levels in HTP aerosols than in conventional cigarette smoke, and there are some additional toxins present in HTP aerosols that are not present in conventional cigarette smoke. The health implications of exposure to these are unknown. On 7 July 2020, the US FDA authorized the marketing of a heated tobacco product, the IQOS Tobacco Heating System, under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. This Act requires pre-market authorization of new tobacco products before they can be placed on the US market. The US FDA statement noted that, “Even with this action, these products are not safe nor “FDA approved“. The exposure modification orders also do not permit the company to make any other modified risk claims or any express or implied statements that convey or could mislead consumers into believing that the products are endorsed or approved by the FDA, or that the FDA deems the products to be safe for use by consumers.”The US FDA authorization rejected claims that the use of the product is less harmful than another tobacco product or reduces risks to health. The FDA orders also require the company to monitor youth awareness and use of the products to help ensure that the marketing of the MRTPs does not have unintended consequences for youth use. The company must also keep the FDA apprised of efforts to prevent youth access and exposure. Given that health may be affected by exposure to additional toxins when using HTPs, claims that HTPS reduce exposure to harmful chemicals relative to conventional cigarettes may be misleading. Moreover, the relevant orders grant a temporary market authorization within the US and are based on factors specific to the US, which is not a Party to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC). All tobacco products pose risks to health and WHO urges full implementation of the WHO FCTC. Rigorous implementation will support quit attempts and reduce initiation by non-users of tobacco products, especially the young. WHO recommends cessation of all tobacco use with interventions, such as brief advice from health professionals, national toll-free quit lines, nicotine replacement therapies and cessation interventions delivered via mobile text messaging.
WHO, WIPO, WTO launch updated study on access to medical technologies and innovation
on Jul 29 2020 at 14:00
The second edition provides an improved basis for policy debate and informed decision-making at a critical time for global health.
INFOSAN Quarterly Summary, 2020 #2
on Jul 29 2020 at 12:51
During the second quarter of 2020, the INFOSAN Secretariat has been involved in 29 food safety incidents with 59 WHO Member States and two territories of WHO Member States. There were 13 biological hazard incidents (Salmonella , Listeria monocytogenes , Clostridium botulinum , Vibrio cholerae , and two involving an unspecified biological hazard), six with a chemical hazard (methanol , histamine  and patulin ), five involving an undeclared allergen (cashew and pistachio , sesame , wheat (1), mustard  and peanuts ), three including a physical hazard (glass ), and two with unspecified hazards.
Framework for the evaluation of new tests for tuberculosis infection
on Jul 29 2020 at 11:34
WHO and the Stop TB Partnership’s New Diagnostics Working Group (NDWG) launched today a framework for the evaluation of new tests for tuberculosis infection. The document provides details on study design, populations, reference standards, sample size calculation and data analysis to guide the future development of these tests.Approximately a quarter of the world’s population is estimated to be infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Treatment of TB infection, also known as tuberculosis preventive treatment (TPT), aims to prevent the development of TB disease, and is one of the critical components to achieve the ambitious targets of the WHO End TB Strategy. At the United Nations High-level Meeting (UNHLM) on TB in 2018, countries committed to provide TPT to at least 30 million people in 2018-2022. "We urgently need new tests for TB infection to expand access to TB preventive treatment for the millions in need, to stop the onset of disease, avert suffering and save lives," said Dr Tereza Kasaeva, Director, WHO Global TB Programme. "New tests with better operational characteristics which can be easily scaled up in the community are vital to overcome the current challenges of fragile supply lines, high cost, cold-chain requirements, uncertainty about quality-assurance, and appropriate laboratory infrastructure."This framework for evaluation of new tests for the detection of TB infection has been produced to direct research and to facilitate a standardized evaluation, thus accelerating the adoption of the tests into global and national policy and subsequent scale-up. The document covers technical issues that should be considered when evaluating new tests for TB infection, such as evaluation of the safety of skin tests, costs to the health system and its users, preferred features and operational characteristics. It is intended for manufacturers of diagnostics, researchers, research funders, regulators, TB programme coordinators, civil society and other stakeholders."We will not be able to progress towards ending TB without reliable tests to confirm TB infection," said Dr Alberto Matteelli, University of Brescia, Italy and coordinator of the Task Force that prepared the framework document. "Although currently testing for TB infection is not always required before starting TPT, a positive test result will help direct TPT to those would benefit most from treatment and avoid unnecessary medication."
Children are the key to behaviour change to reduce infection
on Jul 28 2020 at 10:14
Schoolboy Yangyang was growing weaker by the day. When his symptoms worsened into diarrhoea and abdominal pain, his parents took him to the nearest hospital in Guangxi, southeastern China, where the doctor examined him on arrival and administered treatment. To confirm his suspicion, the doctor ordered a fecal examination. The result confirmed that Yangyang was suffering from a parasitic infection of the liver that can be caused by eating raw fish – a traditional dietary practice that has developed into a growing public health problem in China.
Study provides comprehensive view of terrestrial venomous snakes and snakebite in the Middle East
on Jul 28 2020 at 08:32
Snakebite envenoming is a common problem in many parts of the world, but little is known about its magnitude in the Arab countries of the Middle East, where cases are not widely reported. The aim is to halve the numbers of deaths and cases of disability due to snakebite envenoming over the next 12 years through a programme that targets affected communities and their health systems, and by ensuring access to safe, effective treatment through increased cooperation, collaboration and partnership at all levels.
World Hepatitis Day: fast-tracking the elimination of hepatitis B among mothers and children
on Jul 27 2020 at 09:59
On World Hepatitis Day 2020, WHO is calling for united and stepped-up action to prevent mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B (HBV), a preventable viral infection that attacks the liver and claims the lives of nearly 900 000 people each year.
European Medicines Agency (EMA) approval of the dapivirine ring for HIV prevention for women in high HIV burden settings
on Jul 24 2020 at 14:38
The European Medicines Agency announced today that its human medicines committee provided a positive benefit-risk opinion on the use of the Dapivirine Vaginal Ring (DPV-VR) for HIV prevention. WHO stresses that when providing HIV prevention for women it is always critical to provide these alongside other services including STI diagnosis and treatment, HIV testing and links to antiretroviral therapy for all women who test positive and a range of contraception options.
Amid continued progress, trachoma elimination programmes set their sights on 2030
on Jul 24 2020 at 13:54
Almost two decades of global work has drastically reduced the number of people at risk of blindness from trachoma from 1.5 billion in 2002 to under 137 million in May 2020 – a 91% decrease. Also in 2002, there were an estimated 7.6 million people with trachomatous trichiasis (TT); by May 2020, this figure had dropped by 74% to 2 million. The 2020 figures represent decreases of 4% and 20%, respectively, since the corresponding 2019 estimates.
New estimates show worldwide fall in unintended pregnancies since 1990-1994
on Jul 22 2020 at 22:30
The findings from new estimates, published in The Lancet Global Health, and jointly authored by the Guttmacher Institute and HRP, suggest that over the past 30 years, more women and individuals than ever before have been able to limit or space their pregnancies.
New COVID-19 Law Lab to provide vital legal information and support for the global COVID-19 response
on Jul 22 2020 at 14:01
Launching today, the COVID-19 Law Lab initiative gathers and shares legal documents from over 190 countries across the world to help states establish and implement strong legal frameworks to manage the pandemic. The goal is to ensure that laws protect the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities and that they adhere to international human rights standards.The new Lab (at www.COVIDLawLab.org) is a joint project of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. Well-designed laws can help build strong health systems; evaluate and approve safe and effective drugs and vaccines; and enforce actions to create healthier and safer public spaces and workplaces. Critically, they are key to effective implementation of the WHO International Health Regulations: surveillance; infection prevention and control; management of travel and trade; and implementation of measures to maintain essential health services. “Laws and policies that are grounded in science, evidence and human rights can enable people to access health services, protect themselves from COVID-19 and live free from stigma, discrimination and violence,” says Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. “The COVID-19 Law Lab is an important tool for sharing good practices on laws and policies.”The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a vast increase in urgent legislative action to control and reduce the pandemic. “Strong legal frameworks are critical for national COVID-19 responses,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Laws that impact health often fall outside the health sector. As health is global, legal frameworks should be aligned with international commitments to respond to current and emerging public health risks. A strong foundation of law for health is more important now than ever before.”However, laws that are poorly designed, implemented, or enforced can harm marginalized populations, entrench stigma and discrimination, and hinder efforts to end the pandemic.“Harmful laws can exacerbate stigma and discrimination, infringe on people’s rights and undermine public health responses,” according to Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “To ensure responses to the pandemic are effective, humane and sustainable, governments must use the law as a tool to uphold the human rights and dignity of people affected by COVID-19.”The COVID-19 Law Lab is a database of laws that countries have implemented in response to the pandemic. It includes state of emergency declarations, quarantine measures, disease surveillance, legal measures relating to mask-wearing, social distancing, and access to medication and vaccines. The database will continue to grow as more countries and themes are added. It will also feature research on different legal frameworks for COVID-19. These analyses will focus on the human rights impacts of public health laws and help countries identify best practices to guide their immediate responses to COVID-19 and socioeconomic recovery efforts once the pandemic is under control. It builds off the work of the UHC Legal Solutions Network, which was established to help countries achieve universal health coverage through the implementation of rights-based legal frameworks. “We need to track and evaluate how laws and policies are being used during the Pandemic to understand what works,” said Dr. Matthew M. Kavanagh, faculty in Georgetown University’s Department of International Health. Katie Gottschalk, Executive Director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University Law Center added, “We must learn lessons from the early stage of pandemic policies to implement the most effective laws going forward – the COVID-19 Law Lab allows us to do just that.”About UNDPUNDP is the leading United Nations organization fighting to end the injustice of poverty, inequality, and climate change. Working with our broad network of experts and partners in 170 countries, we help nations to build integrated, lasting solutions for people and planet.Learn more at undp.org or follow at @UNDP.About WHOThe World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and wellbeing. For updates on COVID-19 and public health advice to protect yourself from coronavirus, visit www.who.int and follow WHO on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube About UNAIDSThe Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at unaids.org and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law and Georgetown UniversityThe O’Neill Institute, housed at Georgetown University, was established to create innovative solutions to the most pressing national and international health concerns, with the essential vision that the law has been, and will remain, a fundamental tool for solving critical health problems. The Georgetown University Department of International Health is home to scholarship in public health, economics, political science, and medicine. Georgetown’s Global Health Initiative serves as a university-wide platform for developing concrete solutions to the health challenges facing families and communities throughout the world. Read more at oneillinstitute.org and connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.About the UHC Legal Solutions NetworkThe COVID-19 Law lab is a product of the UHC Legal Solutions Network is a collaboration between the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), and the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. The initiative aims to support countries to achieve universal health coverage by working with policymakers, civil society groups and other stakeholders to craft laws ensure that all people and communities have the right to access the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.
WHA Report on addressing the burden of epilepsy and other neurological disorders available online
on Jul 22 2020 at 11:47
Neurological disorders are the number one cause of disability globally. The five largest contributors are stroke, migraine, dementia, meningitis and epilepsy. Yet, the burden of neurological disorders is widely unrecognized.During the Executive Board meeting in February 2020, Member States requested WHO to prepare a report on "Synergies in addressing the burden of epilepsy and other neurological disorders" (item 11.6, page 8). The report submitted for WHA73 highlights the insufficient access to services and support for neurological disorders, especially in low- and middle-income countries, due to shortages of workforce, stigmatization, discrimination and limited access to medicines, diagnostics and technology.The report is the first of its kind and represents a big step forward in helping people with neurological conditions worldwide. Through a combination of political will, collaboration with civil society partners and other stakeholders and innovative strategies, the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of neurological disorders can be strengthened in primary care and integrated into universal health coverage, even in low-resource settings.
Eleven New Psychoactive Substances to be considered for international control by 43rd ECDD
on Jul 22 2020 at 05:54
Eleven New Psychoactive Substances to be considered for international control by 43rd ECDD
WHO Director-General pays tribute to Spain’s sacrifices and leadership to confront COVID-19
on Jul 16 2020 at 15:54
World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus today joined the leadership of Spain, paying homage to those who have lost their lives in the country due to COVID-19, saluting the heroic efforts of heath workers and praising the government’s resolute and robust response to reverse the virus’s transmission.“It is with great respect that I join the King of Spain, the Prime Minister and the entire government of the country to pay tribute to the people who have fallen victim to COVID-19,” said Dr Tedros. “I extend my deepest condolences to the families of all people who have lost their lives due to this virus in Spain, and around the world.”At one point, Spain was among the countries impacted most by COVID-19. At the outbreak’s peak, close to 10,000 new cases were reported in a single day in Spain. Since then, intensive efforts, led by robust surveillance, testing, contact tracing, treatment and isolation, have managed to suppress transmission.Dr Tedros said this shift was due to the leadership shown by Spain and the strong resolve shown by the Spanish public to adhere to strict restrictions, including lockdowns, physical distancing and other critical measures to contain transmission. These efforts, combined, have successfully changed the course of the country’s outbreak.“Spain has shown that with political leadership and action, backed by community support, that COVID-19 can be controlled, no matter at what stage virus transmission is at in a country. From being greatly challenged, Spain has reversed the trajectory of the outbreak,” Dr Tedros added. “While we have witnessed the suppression of the virus across Spain, I support the commitment by Spanish authorities to remain vigilant in the face of the persistent threat that COVID-19 poses.”
Neglected tropical diseases of the skin: WHO launches mobile application to facilitate diagnosis
on Jul 16 2020 at 14:51
A software application has been developed to make it easier for healthcare workers and the public to get instant, real-time information on the estimated ten neglected tropical diseases of the skin (also known as SkinNTDs).
More than 150 countries engaged in COVID-19 vaccine global access facility
on Jul 15 2020 at 14:39
Seventy-five countries submit expressions of interest to COVAX Facility, joining up to 90 further countries which could be supported by the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC)The COVAX Facility, and the AMC within it, is designed to guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for every country in the world, rich and poor, to make rapid progress towards slowing the pandemic Interest from governments representing more than 60% of the world’s population offers ‘tremendous vote of confidence’ in the effort to ensure truly global access to COVID-19 vaccines, once developedGeneva/London, 15 July 2020 – Seventy-five countries have submitted expressions of interest to protect their populations and those of other nations through joining the COVAX Facility, a mechanism designed to guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.The 75 countries, which would finance the vaccines from their own public finance budgets, partner with up to 90 lower-income countries that could be supported through voluntary donations to Gavi’s COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC). Together, this group of up to 165 countries represents more than 60% of the world’s population. Among the group are representatives from every continent and more than half of the world’s G20 economies.“COVAX is the only truly global solution to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. ““For the vast majority of countries, whether they can afford to pay for their own doses or require assistance, it means receiving a guaranteed share of doses and avoiding being pushed to the back of the queue, as we saw during the H1N1 pandemic a decade ago. Even for those countries that are able to secure their own agreements with vaccine manufacturers, this mechanism represents, through its world-leading portfolio of vaccine candidates, a means of reducing the risks associated with individual candidates failing to show efficacy or gain licensure.” The COVAX Facility forms a key part of the COVAX pillar (COVAX) of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO, working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers. COVAX aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world. It will achieve this by sharing the risks associated with vaccine development, investing in manufacturing upfront so vaccines can be deployed at scale as soon as they are proven successful, and pooling procurement and purchasing power to achieve sufficient volumes to end the acute phase of the pandemic by 2021.“This early level of interest represents a tremendous vote of confidence in COVAX and our shared goal to protect people around the globe through the fair allocation of a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI. “COVAX offers an innovative solution to the gravest public health crisis in living memory. It will speed up the availability of safe and effective vaccines through early investment in manufacturing capacity, and maximise the chances of success by backing a broad and diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates. Through COVAX our aspiration is to be able to vaccinate the most vulnerable 20% of the population of every country that participates, regardless of income level, by the end of 2021. Ensuring fair access is not only a matter of equity; it is the fastest way to end this pandemic” The goal of COVAX is by the end of 2021 to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or WHO prequalification. These vaccines will be delivered equally to all participating countries, proportional to their populations, initially prioritising healthcare workers then expanding to cover 20% of the population of participating countries. Further doses will then be made available based on country need, vulnerability and COVID-19 threat. The COVAX Facility will also maintain a buffer of doses for emergency and humanitarian use, including dealing with severe outbreaks before they spiral out of control. “The COVID-19 pandemic, like every health crisis, also presents us with opportunities,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist. “A vaccine that is affordable and accessible to all will help us address systemic health inequalities. We need all countries to support COVAX to achieve this goal and bring an end to the acute phase of the pandemic.”The success of these efforts will ultimately depend on securing enough funding from governments and commitments from vaccine manufacturers to participate at a scale large enough to deliver a global solution. The formal expressions of interest submitted are non-binding; the COVAX pillar will now begin a process of consultation with all 165 countries, with countries funding vaccines through their own domestic budgets being required to provide an upfront payment and a commitment to purchase doses by the end of August to secure involvement in the COVAX Facility. Significant progress has been achieved by the COVAX partners to date, with seven of the nine candidate vaccines supported by CEPI already in clinical trials. A memorandum of understanding with AstraZeneca also commits them to supply 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX. In addition, in June Gavi launched the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), a financing instrument aimed at incentivising vaccine manufacturers to produce sufficient quantities of eventual COVID-19 vaccines to ensure access for developing countries. The AMC has already raised close to US$ 600 million against an initial target of US$ 2 billion from high income donors as well as the private sector. The Gavi Alliance will also work with the developing countries to assure readiness of supply and cold chain and training to reach high risk groups.Notes to editorsThe countries submitting expressions of interest include Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.In addition to the 75 potentially self-financing countries that have submitted Expressions of Interest in the COVAX Facility, 20 Gavi COVAX AMC-eligible countries have also voluntarily submitted Expressions of Interest.The proposed list of 90 AMC-eligible countries includes existing Gavi-supported countries, former Gavi-supported countries and IDA-eligible small economies. The full list is subject to approval by the Gavi Board and will be released once approved.About Gavi, the Vaccine AllianceGavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 760 million children – and prevented more than 13 million deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 developing countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines. After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation and reaching the unvaccinated children still being left behind, employing innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save millions more lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency. Learn more at www.gavi.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. View the full list of donor governments and other leading organizations that fund Gavi’s work here.About CEPICEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil organisations, launched at Davos in 2017, to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics. CEPI has moved with great urgency and in coordination with WHO in response to the emergence of COVID-19. CEPI has initiated nine partnerships to develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus. The programmes are leveraging rapid response platforms already supported by CEPI as well as new partnerships. Before the emergence of COVID-19, CEPI’s priority diseases included Ebola virus, Lassa virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, Nipah virus, Rift Valley Fever and Chikungunya virus. CEPI also invested in platform technologies that can be used for rapid vaccine and immunoprophylactic development against unknown pathogens (Disease X). About WHOThe World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and wellbeing.For updates on COVID-19 and public health advice to protect yourself from coronavirus, visit www.who.int and follow WHO on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube
WHO and UNICEF warn of a decline in vaccinations during COVID-19
on Jul 15 2020 at 12:00
WHO and UNICEF call for immediate efforts to vaccinate all children as new data shows that, before the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine coverage stalled at 85 per cent for nearly a decade, with 14 million unvaccinated infants yearly
As more go hungry and malnutrition persists, achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 in doubt, UN report warns
on Jul 13 2020 at 14:00
Rome – More people are going hungry, an annual study by the United Nations has found. Tens of millions have joined the ranks of the chronically undernourished over the past five years, and countries around the world continue to struggle with multiple forms of malnutrition.The latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, published today, estimates that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019 – up by 10 million from 2018, and by nearly 60 million in five years. High costs and low affordability also mean billions cannot eat healthily or nutritiously. The hungry are most numerous in Asia but expanding fastest in Africa. Across the planet, the report forecasts, the COVID-19 pandemic could tip over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020. (Flare-ups of acute hunger in the pandemic context may see this number escalate further at times.)The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is the most authoritative global study tracking progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition. It is produced jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).Writing in the foreword, the heads of the five agencies warn that “five years after the world committed to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition, we are still off-track to achieve this objective by 2030". The hunger numbers explainedIn this edition, critical data updates for China and other populous countriesii have led to a substantial cut in estimates of the global number of hungry people, to the current 690 million. Nevertheless, there has been no change in the trend. Revising the entire hunger series back to the year 2000 yields the same conclusion: after steadily diminishing for decades, chronic hunger slowly began to rise in 2014 and continues to do so.Asia remains home to the greatest number of undernourished (381 million). Africa is second (250 million), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (48 million). The global prevalence of undernourishment – or overall percentage of hungry people – has changed little at 8.9 percent, but the absolute numbers have been rising since 2014. This means that over the last five years, hunger has grown in step with the global population.This, in turn, hides great regional disparities: in percentage terms, Africa is the hardest hit region and becoming more so, with 19.1 percent of its people undernourished. This is more than double the rate in Asia (8.3 percent) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (7.4 percent). On current trends, by 2030, Africa will be home to more than half of the world’s chronically hungry. The pandemic’s tollAs progress in fighting hunger stalls, the COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems – understood as all the activities and processes affecting the production, distribution and consumption of food. While it is too soon to assess the full impact of the lockdowns and other containment measures, the report estimates that at a minimum, another 83 million people, and possibly as many as 132 million, may go hungry in 2020 as a result of the economic recession triggered by COVID-19.iii The setback throws into further doubt the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger). Unhealthy diets, food insecurity and malnutritionOvercoming hunger and malnutrition in all its forms (including undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity) is about more than securing enough food to survive: what people eat – and especially what children eat – must also be nutritious. Yet a key obstacle is the high cost of nutritious foods and the low affordability of healthy diets for vast numbers of families.The report presents evidence that a healthy diet costs far more than US$ 1.90/day, the international poverty threshold. It puts the price of even the least expensive healthy diet at five times the price of filling stomachs with starch only. Nutrient-rich dairy, fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods (plant and animal-sourced) are the most expensive food groups globally.The latest estimates are that a staggering 3 billion people or more cannot afford a healthy diet. In sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, this is the case for 57 percent of the population – though no region, including North America and Europe, is spared. Partly as a result, the race to end malnutrition appears compromised. According to the report, in 2019, between a quarter and a third of children under five (191 million) were stunted or wasted – too short or too thin. Another 38 million under-fives were overweight. Among adults, meanwhile, obesity has become a global pandemic in its own right. A call to actionThe report argues that once sustainability considerations are factored in, a global switch to healthy diets would help check the backslide into hunger while delivering enormous savings. It calculates that such a shift would allow the health costs associated with unhealthy diets, estimated to reach US$ 1.3 trillion a year in 2030, to be almost entirely offset; while the diet-related social cost of greenhouse gas emissions, estimated at US$ 1.7 trillion, could be cut by up to three-quarters.iv The report urges a transformation of food systems to reduce the cost of nutritious foods and increase the affordability of healthy diets. While the specific solutions will differ from country to country, and even within them, the overall answers lie with interventions along the entire food supply chain, in the food environment, and in the political economy that shapes trade, public expenditure and investment policies. The study calls on governments to mainstream nutrition in their approaches to agriculture; work to cut cost-escalating factors in the production, storage, transport, distribution and marketing of food – including by reducing inefficiencies and food loss and waste; support local small-scale producers to grow and sell more nutritious foods, and secure their access to markets; prioritize children’s nutrition as the category in greatest need; foster behaviour change through education and communication; and embed nutrition in national social protection systems and investment strategies.The heads of the five UN agencies behind the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World declare their commitment to support this momentous shift, ensuring that it unfolds “in a sustainable way, for people and the planet.” Media contacts for interview requests (several languages are covered):FAO – Andre VORNIC, +39 345 870 6985, email@example.comIFAD – Antonia PARADELA, +34 605 398 109, firstname.lastname@example.orgUNICEF – Sabrina SIDHU, +1 917 476 1537, email@example.comWFP – Martin PENNER, +39 345 614 2074, firstname.lastname@example.orgWHO – Fadela CHAIB, +41 79 475 5556, email@example.com For FAO – Qu Dongyu, Director-General; for IFAD – Gilbert F. Houngbo, President; for UNICEF – Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director; for WFP – David Beasley, Executive Director; for WHO – Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General.ii Updates to a key parameter, which measures inequality in food consumption within societies, have been made for 13 countries whose combined population approaches 2.5 billion people: Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Sudan and Thailand. The size of China’s population, in particular, has had the single largest impact on global numbers.iii This range corresponds to the most recent expectations of a 4.9 to 10 percent drop in global GDP.iv The report analyses the “hidden costs” of unhealthy diets and models options involving four alternative diets: flexitarian, pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan. It also acknowledges that some poorer countries’ carbon emissions may initially need to rise to allow them to reach nutrition targets. (The opposite is true of richer countries.)
Poor quality medicines putting the lives of pregnant women at risk
on Jul 10 2020 at 18:03
Good-quality medicines, given at the right time, can save the lives of pregnant and recently pregnant women and their newborn babies. New evidence synthesis reveals however, that in many health-care settings across the world, women with life-threatening maternal complications are given poor quality medicines – putting their lives and well-being at grave risk.The systematic review, authored by staff at WHO Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research including HRP, and collaborators published in PLOS ONE, shows that in many low- and middle-income countries, low-quality medicines are used to manage life-threatening maternal conditions. Maternal mortalityIt is both tragic and unacceptable that so many women, particularly those living in low- and middle-income countries continue to die from causes related to health complications related to pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. The most recent estimates showed that every day in 2017, approximately 810 women died from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Preventable with the right treatmentFrequent life-threatening maternal complications include post-partum haemorrhage, pre-eclampsia/eclampsia, and sepsis. With timely and effective care and medications, any serious repercussions caused by these complications can often be avoided. Uterotonics (drugs used to stop bleeding, particularly for postpartum haemorrhage) such as oxytocin, are effective in preventing post-partum haemorrhage. Antibiotics administered during labour or after birth can prevent or treat sepsis for both women and their newborn babies. And magnesium sulphate can help to prevent and/ or treat eclampsia. These are medical options that are both affordable and effective. “Out of specification” and poor-quality drugsThere are growing concerns about the negative impact upon health of substandard and falsified medicines (also known as “out of specification” drugs) particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The new systematic review shows, however, that in many health-care settings in low- and middle-income countries, poor quality versions of these drugs are often provided. The findings suggest that this problem could contribute to the persistence of the high numbers of severe complications and deaths caused by pos partum haemorrhage, eclampsia, and sepsis in low- and middle- income countries. The new study showed that nearly half (48.9%) of all uterotonic drugs sampled failed quality assessments. 1 in 7 injectable antibiotic samples (13%) and 1 in 29 magnesium sulphate samples (3.4%) were of low quality.Nearly half of the samples assessed were collected since 2011, indicating that this is an issue of current global concern that requires immediate attention. The study also looked at differences in quality of medicines between the private and public sector, and found that in general, higher failure rates were in the private sector. This finding underlines the crucial need for national procurement bodies or private providers to procure medications that adhere to WHO prequalification, or similar stringent requirements. Quality and dignityEvery woman has the right to quality care before, during and following pregnancy and childbirth. The informed provision of good quality medicines, at the right time, is crucial for ensuring high quality and dignified care for women and their newborn babies.Health-care providers need also to be able to access good quality medicines in order to properly care for women. They should also receive proper training in how and when to administer these drugs. This is crucial as they work to uphold the Hippocratic oath of ‘do no harm’. Mariana Widmer, a Scientist at WHO and HRP, and an author of the paper reflects, “Health care workers need to be able to know they are truly caring for women, and treating any health complications of pregnancy and childbirth effectively. We need to ensure they receive training to provide medications, and that medications are always good quality.
WHO and partners to help more than 1 billion people quit tobacco to reduce risk of COVID-19
on Jul 10 2020 at 14:40
GENEVA — A new Access Initiative for Quitting Tobacco aims to help the world's 1.3 billion tobacco users quit. Stopping smoking is more important than ever as evidence reveals that smokers are more likely than non-smokers to have severe outcomes from COVID-19.The project gives people free access to nicotine replacement therapy and to Florence, a digital health worker, based on artificial intelligence that dispels myths around COVID-19 and tobacco and helps people develop a personalized plan to quit tobacco. It is being led by the World Health Organization (WHO), together with the UN Interagency Task Force on Non-communicable Diseases, PATH and the Coalition for Access to NCD Medicines and Products, with support from the private sector.The Secretariat of the WHO FCTC, salutes this initiative. The Head of the Convention Secretariat commented, “This will contribute to Parties’ implementation of Article 14 of the Convention, regarding measures concerning tobacco dependence and cessation. And, as previously said: there has never been a more appropriate time to support people in their efforts to quit tobacco use.”Dr Ruediger Krech, Director of Health Promotion said that, "We welcome the support of pharmaceutical and tech companies to improve people's health and save lives during COVID-19. The partnership highlights what we can achieve when we work together both to end the pandemic and, moving forward, to build back better."WHO received its first-ever donation of nicotine replacement therapies for the project from Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health. The manufacturer has donated 37,800 nicotine patches to help 5,400 people in Jordan quit smoking. These efforts will help WHO respond to the ongoing pandemic and improve health outcomes.Florence was created with technology developed by San Francisco and New Zealand based Digital People company Soul Machines, with support from Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.Jordan, which has some of the highest tobacco use rates in the world, will be the first pilot country with additional companies and countries to join in discussion. HRH Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, President for the International Union of Cancer Control said, “I am pleased that Jordan is part of this initiative, which will help advocate for tobacco control and support civil society organizations in their continued efforts for a healthier smoke-free future for Jordan.”Just last week the Government of Jordan adopted a ban on smoking and vaping indoors in public places. The link between smoking and COVID-19 make it essential for governments to pass comprehensive tobacco control laws that will protect the health of their people during this pandemic and beyond.Although around 60% of tobacco users worldwide say they want to quit, only 30% of them have access to the tools that can help them do so The Access Initiative for Quitting Tobacco is designed to deliver tobacco cessation services that will help people overcome both physical and mental addictions to tobaccoInfographic(click on image to download infographic in PDF)
Study estimates more than one million Indians died from snakebite envenoming over past two decades
on Jul 10 2020 at 10:40
India is among the countries most dramatically affected by snakebite and accounts for almost half the total number of annual deaths in the world. Authors of the article entitled ‘Trends in snakebite mortality in India from 2000 to 2019 in a nationally representative mortality study’ analysed 2,833 snakebite deaths from 611,483 verbal autopsies from an earlier study1 and conducted a systematic literature review from 2000-2019 covering 87,590 snake bites.The authors estimated that India had 1.2 million snakebite deaths (representing an average of 58,000 per year) from 2000 to 2019 with nearly half of the victims aged 30-69 and over a quarter being children under 15.People living in densely populated low altitude agricultural areas in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh (which includes Telangana, a recently defined state), Rajasthan and Gujarat, suffered 70% of deaths during the period 2001-2014, particularly during the rainy season when encounters between snakes and humans are more frequent at home and outdoors.Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii) (Figure 1), kraits (Bungarus species) and cobras (Naja species; Figure 2) are among the most important biting snake species in India, yet other often unidentified species also represent a threat. Left: Russel's Viper (Photo:David Williams): Right: Speckled Cobra in a field near an agricultural worker. (Photo: Ben Owens)The World Health Organization (WHO) has set the target of reducing by half the number of deaths due to snakebite envenoming by 2030 and India’s efforts to prevent and control this disease will largely influence this global target. “Since deaths are restricted mainly to lower altitude, intensely agricultural areas, during a single season of each year, this should make the annual epidemics easier to manage. India’s tremendous snakebite burden is staring us in the face and we need to act now” said Romulus Whitaker of the Centre for Herpetology/Madras Crocodile Bank. “Targeting these areas with education about simple methods, such as ‘snake-safe’ harvest practices, wearing rubber boots and gloves and using rechargeable torches (or mobile phone flashlights) could reduce the risk of snakebites.”Need for more nationwide epidemiological studies in snakebite endemic countriesAdditional nationally representative studies together with increasing mapping resolution and multi-sourced data granularity, including both hospital-based mortality and morbidity data including those collected at the community level, are needed for more targeted and effective public health interventions in other snakebite endemic countries.The authors also noted that the Government of India’s official declaration of snakebite deaths in public hospitals during the period 2003 to 2015 was only 15,500, one tenth of the 154,000 snakebite deaths detected during this same period by the MDS from public and private hospitals.“Our study directly quantified and identified the populations most affected by fatal snakebites in India. We showed that the overall lifetime risk of being killed by snakebite is about 1 in 250, but in some areas, the lifetime risk reaches 1 in 100” said Prabhat Jha, Director of the Centre for Global Health Research at the University of Toronto, Canada. “Ongoing direct measurement of mortality at local levels is key to achieving WHO’s global roadmap.”To repair this gross under-reporting, the authors recommend that the Government of India designate and enforce snakebite as a ‘Notifiable Disease’ within the Integrated Disease Surveillance Program. Accurate snakebite data are essential if the Government of India’s strategies to reduce snakebite deaths are to succeed. --------------------------------------1Snakebite Mortality in India: A Nationally Representative Mortality Survey published in PLoS in 2011 and based on the Indian Million Death Study estimated 46,000 annual deaths caused by snakebite in India.
The latest list of participants of the WHO Chemical Risk Assessment Network
on Jun 2 2020 at 13:39
The WHO Chemical Risk Assessment Network was recently joined by new institutions. As of 1 July 2020 the WHO Chemical Risk Assessment Network counts 90 institutions participating from 53 Member States.Read more about the Network