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

  • Together to #ENDviolence: Leaders' Statement. Six game-changing actions to End Violence Against Children
    on Jul 23 2021 at 11:13

    One billion children experience violence and abuse every year. That shocking figure has risen even higher during the COVID-19 pandemic. Violence prevention and response services have been disrupted for 1.8 billion children living in more than 100 countries. 1.5 billion young people affected by school closures lost the protection and support that schools often provide. Measures to contain the virus, along with economic hardship and family stress, have combined to create ‘perfect storm’ conditions for children vulnerable to observing or experiencing physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Despite the benefits of digital connectivity, a life lived more online for learning, socialising and gaming has significantly increased children’s exposure to those who wish to harm them. Today, we stand at a critical moment for the world’s children. Unless we act now and with urgency, we risk losing a generation of children to the long-term impacts of violence and abuse that will undermine child safety, health, learning and development long after the pandemic subsides. We cannot let that happen. As the world starts to emerge from the pandemic, we have an opportunity to reimagine and create more peaceful, just and inclusive societies. Now is the time to redouble our collective efforts and translate what we know works into accelerated progress towards the goal of a world where every child grows-up safe, secure and in a nurturing environment. We must create a world: where every child can grow up and thrive with dignity; where violence and abuse of children is legally outlawed and socially unacceptable; where the relationship between parents and children prevents the intergenerational transmission of violence; where children in every community can safely take advantage of the digital world for learning, playing and socialising; where girls and boys experience stronger developmental and educational outcomes because schools and other learning environments are safe, gender-sensitive, inclusive and supportive; where sport is safe for children; where every effort is made to protect the most vulnerable children from all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse, including those living in situations of conflict and fragility (including climate-related fragility); and where all children can access safe and child-friendly help when they need it. The moral imperative and economic case for action to end violence against children are compelling. Action today will not only prevent the devastating intergenerational social and economic impacts of violence on children, families and societies; it will also help to address the wider impacts of COVID-19 and support progress towards multiple Sustainable Development Goals. Together, as leaders of organisations committed to ending violence against children, we urge leaders in government, the private sector, faith communities, multilateral organisations, civil society and sports bodies to seize the moment and be champions of this agenda in their countries, organisations, networks and communities. We call on these leaders to prioritise protecting children in their policies, planning, budgets and communications, and to work together to deliver six game-changing actions to end violence against children: Ban all forms of violence against children by 2030 Equip parents and caregivers to keep children safe Make the internet safe for children Make schools safe, non-violent and inclusive Protect children from violence in humanitarian settings More investment, better spentAs global organisations working to end violence against children, we will continue to advocate for and invest in effective child protection, promoting solutions that recognise the different ways in which girls and boys experience violence and abuse. We will collectively develop and share technical resources and guidance for policymakers, practitioners, parents, caregivers and children themselves. And we will support the courageous health, education, child protection and humanitarian professionals working alongside faith leaders, community volunteers, parents and young people to keep children safe during these unprecedented times. In recent years, we have made significant gains in protecting children from violence. We must do all we can to keep children safe during the current turmoil, and work together to build back better — to end all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation of children. SignatoriesAlice Albright, CEO, Global Partnership for EducationNiklas Andréen, President and Chief Operating Officer, Carlson Wagonlit TravelInger Ashing, CEO, Save the Children InternationalAudrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCOIrakli Beridze, Head of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, UNICRIScott Berkowitz, President and Founder, RAINNAnna Borgstrom, CEO, NetCleanProfessor Lucle Cluver, Universities of Oxford and Cape TownJulie Cordua, CEO, ThornBob Cunningham, CEO, International Centre for Missing and Exploited ChildrenProfessor Jennifer Davidson, Executive Director, Inspiring Children’s Futures, Uni. of StrathclydeMichelle DeLaune, Chief Operating Officer, National Center for Missing & Exploited ChildrenIain Drennan, Executive Director, WeProtect Global AllianceSuzanne Ehlers, CEO, Malala FundHelga Fogstad,, Executive-Director, PMNCHHenrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEFDr. Debi Fry, Co-Director, End Violence Lab, University of EdinburghVirginia Gamba, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed ConflictMeg Gardinier, Secretary General, ChildFund AllianceDr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHOFilippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for RefugeesPaula Guillet de Monthoux, Secretary General, World Childhood FoundationSusie Hargreaves, CEO, Internet Watch FoundationMary Harvey, CEO, Centre for Sport and Human RightsDenton Howard, Executive Director, INHOPEIngrid Johansen, CEO, SOS Children’s Villages InternationalEylah Kadjar, Secretary General ad Interim, Terre des Hommes International FederationBaroness Beeban Kidron OBE, Founder and Chair, 5Rights FoundationPatrick Krens, Executive Director, Child Helpline InternationalDr. A.K. Shiva Kumar, Global Co-Chair, Know Violence in ChildhoodDr. Daniela Ligiero, Executive Director and CEO, Together for GirlsElizabeth Lule, Executive Director, Early Childhood Development Action NetworkDr. Najat Maalla M’jid, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against ChildrenRev. Keishi Miyamoto, President, Arigatou InternationalPhumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN WomenAndrew Morley, President and CEO, World Vision InternationalThomas Muller, Acting Executive Director, ECPAT InternationalRaj Nooyi, Interim CEO, Plan InternationalDr. Joan Nyanyuki, Executive Director, African Child Policy ForumMabel van Oranje, Founder and Board Chair, Girls Not BridesPramila Patten, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in ConflictJoy Phumaphi, Board Co-Chair, Global Partnership to End Violence Against ChildrenRev. Prof. Dr. Ioan Sauca, Acting General Secretary, World Council of ChurchesDr. Rajeev Seth, Chair of the Board, IPSCANYasmine Sherif, Director, Education Cannot WaitDr. Howard Taylor, Executive Director, Global Partnership to End Violence Against ChildrenHelle Thorning-Schmidt, Board Co-Chair, Global Partnership to End Violence Against ChildrenLiv Tørres, Director, Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, New York UniversityDr. Jennifer Wortham, Chair, World Day Global Collaborative

  • New report reveals stark inequalities in access to HIV prevention and treatment services for children—partners call for urgent action
    on Jul 21 2021 at 20:39

    Almost half (46%) of the world’s 1.7 million children living with HIV were not on treatment in 2020 and 150 000 children were newly infected with HIV, four times more than the 2020 target of 40 000In the final report from the Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free initiative, UNAIDS and partners* warn that progress towards ending AIDS among children, adolescents and young women has stalled and none of the targets for 2020 were met. The report shows that the total number of children on treatment declined for the first time, despite the fact that nearly 800 000 children living with HIV are not currently on treatment. It also shows that opportunities to identify infants and young children living with HIV early are being missed—more than one third of children born to mothers living with HIV were not tested. If untreated, around 50% of children living with HIV die before they reach their second birthday.  “Over 20 years ago, initiatives for families and children to prevent vertical transmission and to eliminate children dying of AIDS truly kick-started what has now become our global AIDS response. This stemmed from an unprecedented activation of all partners, yet, despite early and dramatic progress, despite more tools and knowledge than ever before, children are falling way behind adults and way behind our goals,” said Shannon Hader, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Programme. “The inequalities are striking—children are nearly 40% less likely than adults to be on life-saving treatment (54% of children versus 74% of adults), and account for a disproportionate number of deaths (just 5% of all people living with HIV are children, but children account for 15% of all AIDS-related deaths). This is about children’s right to health and healthy lives, their value in our societies.  It’s time to reactivate on all fronts—we need the leadership, activism, and investments to do what’s right for kids.”Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free is a five-year framework that began in 2015, following on from the hugely successful Global Plan towards the elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive. It called for a super Fast-Track approach to ensure that every child has an HIV-free beginning, that they stay HIV-free through adolescence and that every child and adolescent living with HIV has access to antiretroviral therapy. The approach intensified focus on 23 countries, 21 of which were in Africa, that accounted for 83% of the global number of pregnant women living with HIV, 80% of children living with HIV and 78% of young women aged 15–24 years newly infected with HIV.“The HIV community has a long history of tackling unprecedented challenges, today we need that same energy and perseverance to address the needs of the most vulnerable—our children. African leaders have the power to help us change the pace of care and should act and lead until no child living with HIV is left behind,” said Ren Minghui, Assistant Director-General of the Universal Health Coverage/Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases Division of the World Health Organization.Although the 2020 targets were missed, the 21 focus countries in Africa made better progress than the non-focus countries. However, there were major disparities between countries, and these countries still bear the highest burden of disease: 11 countries account for nearly 70% of the “missing children”—those living with HIV but not on treatment. There was a 24% decline in new HIV infections among children from 2015 to 2020 in focus countries versus a 20% decline globally. Focus countries also achieved 89% treatment coverage for pregnant women living with HIV, compared to 85% globally, but still short of the target of 95%, and there were huge differences between countries. For example, Botswana achieved 100% treatment coverage, yet the Democratic Republic of the Congo only reached 39%.“While we are deeply distressed by the global paediatric HIV shortfalls, we are also encouraged by the fact that we largely have the tools we need to change this,” said Angeli Achrekar, Acting United States Global AIDS Coordinator. “So, let this report be a call to action to challenge complacency and to work tirelessly to close the gap.” The report outlines three actions necessary to end new HIV infections among children in the focus countries. First, reach pregnant women with testing and treatment as early as possible—66 000 new HIV infections occurred among children because their mothers did not receive treatment at all during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Second, ensure the continuity of treatment and viral suppression during pregnancy, breastfeeding and for life—38 000 children became newly infected with HIV because their mothers were not continued in care during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Third, prevent new HIV infections among women who are pregnant and breastfeeding—35 000 new infections among children occurred because a woman became newly infected with HIV during pregnancy or breastfeeding. There has been some progress in preventing adolescent girls and young women from acquiring HIV. In the focus countries, the number of adolescent girls and young women acquiring HIV declined by 27% from 2015 to 2020. However, the number of adolescent girls and young women acquiring HIV in the 21 focus countries was 200 000, twice the global target for 2020 (100 000). In addition, COVID-19 and school closures are now disrupting many educational and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescent girls and young women, highlighting the urgent need to redouble HIV prevention efforts to reach young women and adolescent girls.“The lives of the most vulnerable girls and young women hang in the balance, locked into deeply entrenched cycles of vulnerability and neglect that must urgently be interrupted. With the endorsement of United Nations Member States, the new global AIDS strategy recommits us all to address these intersecting vulnerabilities to halt and reverse the effects of HIV by 2030. We know that rapid gains can be achieved for girls and young women; what is needed is the courage to apply the solutions, and the discipline to implement these with rigor and scale,” said Chewe Luo, United Nations Children’s Fund Chief of HIV and Associate Director of Health Programmes.UNAIDS and partners will continue to work together to develop new frameworks to address the unfinished agenda. New targets for 2025 were officially adopted by United Nations Member States in the 2021 Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS: Ending Inequalities and Getting on Track to End AIDS by 2030 in June this year, providing a road map for the next five years. “It is clear that ending mother-to-child transmission requires innovative approaches that support the whole woman throughout the life course, including intensified primary prevention efforts, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), access to comprehensive reproductive care, and focused attention on adolescent girls and young women. The Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free report includes new the new targets for 2025 that, if met, will propel a new era of HIV prevention and treatment for women, children and families. This is not the time for complacency, but rather an opportunity to redouble investments to reduce and eliminate mother-to-child transmission,” said Chip Lyons, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.*The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, UNAIDS, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization, with support from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. UNAIDS The 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.PEPFARPEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in history. Managed and overseen by the U.S. Department of State, and supported through the compassion and generosity of the American people, PEPFAR has saved 20 million lives, prevented millions of infections, and helped transform the global AIDS response.UNICEFUNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. Follow UNICEF on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTubeWHODedicated to the well-being of all people and guided by science, the World Health Organization (WHO) leads and champions global efforts to give everyone, everywhere an equal chance at a safe and healthy life. We are the UN agency for heath that connects nations, partners and people on the front lines in 150+ locations – leading the world’s response to health emergencies, preventing disease, addressing the root causes of health issues and expanding access to medicines and health care. Our mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. www.who.int Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS FoundationEGPAF is a proven leader in the fight for an AIDS-free generation and has reached over 31 million pregnant women with services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. Founded in 1988, EGPAF has supported over 15,000 sites and currently works in 17 countries to offer HIV counseling, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment services alongside high-quality family health care. Each stage of life—from infancy to adulthood—brings new and different challenges, and EGPAF is driven to see a world where no other mother, child, or family is devastated by this disease. For more information, visit www.pedaids.org.

  • Vaccine inequity undermining global economic recovery
    on Jul 21 2021 at 17:45

    New Global Dashboard on COVID-19 Vaccine Equity finds low-income countries would add $38 billion to their GDP forecast for 2021 if they had the same vaccination rate as high-income countries. Global economic recovery at risk if vaccines are not equitably manufactured, scaled up and distributed.

  • International Paralympic Committee, World Health Organization sign memorandum of understanding to cooperate in the promotion of diversity and equity in health and sports
    on Jul 21 2021 at 10:58

    The World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) today signed an agreement to work together to foster diversity and equity through global initiatives promoting health and sport for everybody, everywhere.

  • WFP and WHO launch innovative project on Emergency Health Facilities
    on Jul 19 2021 at 12:10

    Following the recent G20 side event co-hosted by the Italian Government and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) focusing on the role of logistics in current and future health emergencies, WFP and the World Health Organization (WHO) are launching INITIATE2, a joint project to bring together emergency actors, research and academic institutions, and international and national partners to promote knowledge sharing and skills transfer for improved emergency response to health crises.INITIATE² will develop standardized, innovative solutions such as disease-specific field facilities and kits and test these solutions in real-life scenarios. The agencies will also train logistics and health responders on their installation and use, contributing to their capacity to respond in health crises. The project will be developed and replicated in countries for relevant personnel, building on past experiences in emergency response.“Health emergencies like the West Africa Ebola response and the current COVID-19 pandemic have shown just how crucial working together as a humanitarian community is, and so we’re extremely pleased to be able to further cement our role as an enabler of humanitarian response through this collaboration with WHO,” said Alex Marianelli, WFP Director of Supply Chain.“The WHO-WFP-led COVID-19 Supply Chain System has already illustrated an end-to-end integration of technical and operational capacities for impact,” said Dr Ibrahima Soce-Fall, Assistant Director-General for Emergencies Response, WHO. “With INITIATE2, WFP and WHO are now extending the collaboration to build synergies among different actors and foster innovation in this critical field, to quickly respond to health emergencies and create a conducive environment for knowledge sharing and skills transfer. This is an excellent example of how we can scale and harmonize emergency preparedness, readiness, and response.”The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.Follow us on Twitter @wfp_media @wfplogisticsThe 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, 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 well-being.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, TwitchThe initiative will combine WFP and WHO’s technical expertise and will leverage the existing infrastructure of the United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot in Brindisi, the first in a network of six strategically located hubs around the world which store and dispatch relief items on behalf of the humanitarian community. INITIATE2 will capitalise on these facilities and experience: the Brindisi hub is regularly used to organize large-scale emergency simulations and hosts the UNHRD Lab, where innovative emergency response products are developed and tested.  

  • Updated WHO SAGE Roadmap for prioritizing uses of COVID-19 vaccines in the context of limited supply
    on Jul 16 2021 at 13:10

    This interim guidance was initially issued in October 2020, based on advice from the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization; it has been updated following the discussions at an extraordinary meeting of SAGE on 29 June 2021.  A summary of the major revisions appears in Annex 3 (page 20), including evolving key assumptions and epidemiological considerations.For further information, see below:WHO SAGE Roadmap For Prioritizing Uses Of COVID-19 Vaccines In The Context Of Limited Supply

  • Statement on the eighth meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic
    on Jul 15 2021 at 12:54

    The eighth meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) took place on Wednesday, 14 July 2021 from 11:30 to 16:00 Geneva time (CEST). Proceedings of the meetingMembers and Advisors of the Emergency Committee were convened by videoconference. The Director-General welcomed the Committee and reiterated his global call for action to scale up vaccination and implement rationale use of public health and social measures (PHSM). He thanked the Committee for their continued support in identifying key challenges and solutions that countries can use to overcome the issues posed by the pandemic.  Representatives of the Office of Legal Counsel (LEG) 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 expressed concern over the current trends with the COVID-19 pandemic and reviewed the objectives and agenda of the meeting. The Secretariat presented on the global epidemiological context, shared updates on travel guidance and measures taken by countries and provided an overview of the World Health Assembly 74’s decisions and resolutions that relate to the role and functioning of the IHR Emergency Committee. The Secretariat also highlighted factors driving the current situation including:variants of concern, inconsistent application of public health and social measures, increased social mobility, and highly susceptible populations due to lack of equitable vaccine distribution. The Committee discussed key themes including: global inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines which is compounded by use of the available vaccines beyond SAGE recommended priority populations and the administration of booster doses while many countries do not have sufficient access to initial doses;the need for technology transfer to enhance global vaccination production capacity,the importance of adapting PHSM to epidemiological and socio-economic contexts and to diverse types of gatherings, challenges posed by the lack of harmonization in documentation requirements for vaccination and recovery status for international travel,  threats posed by current and future SARS CoV-2 variants of concern, andefforts made by some States Parties to apply a risk-management approach to religious or sports-based mass gathering events. The pandemic remains a challenge globally with countries navigating different health, economic and social demands. The Committee noted that regional and economic differences are affecting access to vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. Countries with advanced access to vaccines and well-resourced health systems are under pressure to fully reopen their societies and relax the PHSM. Countries with limited access to vaccines are experiencing new waves of infections, seeing erosion of public trust and growing resistance to PHSM, growing economic hardship, and, in some instances, increasing social unrest. As a result, governments are making increasingly divergent policy decisions that address narrow national needs which inhibit a harmonized approach to the global response. In this regard, the Committee was highly concerned about the inadequate funding of WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and called for  more flexible and predictable funding to support WHO’s leadership role in the global pandemic response.The Committee noted that, despite national, regional, and global efforts, the pandemic is nowhere near finished. The pandemic continues to evolve with four variants of concern dominating global epidemiology. The Committee recognised the strong likelihood for the emergence and global spread of new and possibly more dangerous variants of concern that may be even more challenging to control. The Committee expressed appreciation for States Parties engaging in research to increase understanding of COVID-19 vaccines and requested that clinical trial volunteers not be disadvantaged in travel arrangements due to their participation in research studies. At the same time, the risk of emergence of new zoonotic diseases while still responding to the current pandemic has been emphasised by the Committee.  The Committee noted the importance of States Parties’ continued vigilance for detection and mitigation of new zoonotic diseases.The Committee unanimously agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic still constitutes an extraordinary event that continues to adversely affect the health of populations around the world, poses a risk of international spread and interference with international traffic, and requires a coordinated international response. As such, the Committee concurred that the COVID-19 pandemic remains a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) and offered the following advice to the Director-General. The Director-General determined that the COVID-19 pandemic 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. The Emergency Committee will be reconvened within three months or earlier, at the discretion of the Director-General. The Director-General thanked the Committee for its work.Advice to the WHO SecretariatContinue to work with States Parties to implement PHSM to control transmission, taking into account the acceptability, feasibility, costs, effects, and the balance between benefits and harms in each epidemiological and socio-economic context. Continue to advocate for equitable vaccine access and distribution by encouraging sharing of available vaccine doses, expanded local production capacity in low- and middle-income countries, waiving intellectual property rights, leveraging technology transfer, scale up of manufacturing, and calling for the necessary global funding. Update and disseminate guidance related to appropriate use of vaccines (including topics such as booster doses and heterologous use of vaccines). Expedite the work to establish updated means for documenting COVID-19 status of travelers, including vaccination, history of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and SARS-CoV-2 test results. This includes both an interim update to the WHO booklet containing the International Certificate of Vaccination and Prophylaxis and digital solutions which allow for verification of relevant information.  Continue to strengthen the global monitoring and assessment framework for SARS CoV-2 variants and provide updated guidance to support States Parties in establishing, leveraging, and expanding genomic sequencing capacities as well as timely sharing of information, data, and samples. Strengthen communication strategies at national, regional and global levels to reduce COVID-19 transmission and counter misinformation, including rumours that fuel vaccine hesitancy. This will require reinforcing messages that a comprehensive public health response continues to be needed, including the continued use of PHSM regardless of vaccination coverage. Collect information from States Parties on their uptake and progress made in implementing the Temporary Recommendations. Temporary Recommendations to States PartiesWhile the Committee noted that there are nuances associated with diverse regional contexts related to the implementation of the Temporary Recommendations, they identified the following as critical for all countries:                  Continue to use evidence-informed PHSM based on real time monitoring of the epidemiologic situation and health system capacities, taking into account the potential cumulative effects of these measures. The use of masks, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and improved ventilation of indoor spaces remains key to reducing transmission of SARS CoV-2. The use of established public health measures in response to individual cases or clusters of cases, including contact tracing, quarantine and isolation, must continue to be adapted to the epidemiological and social context and enforced. Link to WHO guidanceImplement a risk-management approach for mass gathering events by evaluating, mitigating, and communicating risks. Recognizing that there are different drivers and risk tolerance for mass gatherings, it is critical to consider the epidemiological context (including the prevalence of variants of concern, the strength of transmission, as well as contract tracing and testing capacity) when conducting this risk assessment in line with WHO guidance. Link to WHO guidance. Achieve the WHO call to action to have at least 10% of all countries’ populations vaccinated by September 2021. Increased global solidarity is needed to protect vulnerable populations from the emergence and spread of SARS CoV-2 variants. Noting that many countries have now vaccinated their priority populations, it is recommended that doses should be shared with countries that have limited access before expanding national vaccination programmes into lower risk groups. Vaccination programmes should include vulnerable populations, including sea farers and air crews. Link to WHO guidance.Enhance surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 and continue to report to WHO to enable rapid identification, tracking, and evaluation of variants and continued monitoring of the pandemic’s evolution. To achieve this recommendation, States Parties may need to strengthen their epidemiological and virologic (including genomic) surveillance and reporting systems or share samples with countries that have this capacity. Link to WHO guidance.Improve access to and safe administration of WHO recommended therapeutics, including oxygen, to treat COVID-19. In addition, it is important for States Parties to conduct clinical research on and support access to care for patients suffering from post COVID-19 condition (also known as long COVID). States Parties should also continue research on therapeutics for the prevention of COVID-19 infections where feasible. Link to WHO resource.Continue a risk-based approach to facilitate international travel and share information with WHO on use of travel measures and their public health rationale. In accordance with the IHR, measures (e.g. masking, testing, isolation/quarantine, and vaccination) should be based on risk assessments, consider local circumstances, and avoid placing the financial burden on international travellers in accordance with Article 40 of the IHR. Link to WHO guidance. Do NOT require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for international travel as the only pathway or condition permitting international travel, given limited global access and inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.  Link to WHO interim position paper. State Parties should consider a risk-based approach to the facilitation of international travel by lifting measures, such as testing and/or quarantine requirements, when appropriate, in accordance with the WHO guidance. Link to WHO guidance. Recognize all COVID-19 vaccines that have received WHO Emergency Use Listing in the context of international travel. In addition, States Parties are encouraged to include information on COVID-19 status, in accordance with WHO guidance, within the WHO booklet containing the International Certificate of Vaccination and Prophylaxis; and to use the digitized version when available. Address community engagement and communications gaps at national and local levels to reduce COVID-19 transmission, counter misinformation, and improve COVID-19 vaccine acceptance, where applicable. This will require reinforcing messages that a comprehensive public health response is needed, including the continued use of PHSM alongside increasing vaccination coverage. Link to WHO risk communications resources.

  • COVID-19 pandemic leads to major backsliding on childhood vaccinations, new WHO, UNICEF data shows
    on Jul 14 2021 at 11:19

    23 million children missed out on basic vaccines through routine immunization services in 2020 – 3.7 million more than in 2019 - according to official data published today by WHO and UNICEF. This latest set of comprehensive worldwide childhood immunization figures, the first official figures to reflect global service disruptions due to COVID-19, show a majority of countries last year experienced drops in childhood vaccination rates.Concerningly, most of these – up to 17 million children – likely did not receive a single vaccine during the year, widening already immense inequities in vaccine access. Most of these children live in communities affected by conflict, in under-served remote places, or in informal or slum settings where they face multiple deprivations including limited access to basic health and key social services.“Even as countries clamour to get their hands on COVID-19 vaccines, we have gone backwards on other vaccinations, leaving children at risk from devastating but preventable diseases like measles, polio or meningitis,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Multiple disease outbreaks would be catastrophic for communities and health systems already battling COVID-19, making it more urgent than ever to invest in childhood vaccination and ensure every child is reached.”In all regions, rising numbers of children miss vital first vaccine doses in 2020; millions more miss later vaccinesDisruptions in immunization services were widespread in 2020, with the WHO Southeast Asian and Eastern Mediterranean Regions most affected.  As access to health services and immunization outreach were curtailed, the number of children not receiving even their very first vaccinations increased in all regions. As compared with 2019, 3.5 million more children missed their first dose of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTP-1) while 3 million more children missed their first measles dose. “This evidence should be a clear warning – the COVID-19 pandemic and related disruptions cost us valuable ground we cannot afford to lose – and the consequences will be paid in the lives and wellbeing of the most vulnerable,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Even before the pandemic, there were worrying signs that we were beginning to lose ground in the fight to immunize children against preventable child illness, including with the widespread measles outbreaks two years ago. The pandemic has made a bad situation worse. With the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we must remember that vaccine distribution has always been inequitable, but it does not have to be.”Table 1: Countries with the greatest increase in children not receiving a first dose of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis combined vaccine (DTP-1)  20192020India1'403'0003'038'000Pakistan567'000968'000Indonesia472'000797'000Philippines450'000557'000Mexico348000454'000Mozambique97'000186'000Angola399'000482'000United Republic of Tanzania183'000249'000Argentina97'000156'000Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)75'000134'000Mali136'000193'000 The data shows that middle-income countries now account for an increasing share of unprotected children – that is, children missing out on at least some vaccine doses. India is experiencing a particularly large drop, with DTP-3 coverage falling from 91% to 85%.Fuelled by funding shortfalls, vaccine misinformation, instability and other factors, a troubling picture is also emerging in WHO’s Region of the Americas, where vaccination coverage continues to fall. Just 82% of children are fully vaccinated with DTP, down from 91% in 2016.Countries risk resurgence of measles, other vaccine-preventable diseasesEven prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, global childhood vaccination rates against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles and polio had stalled for several years at around 86%. This rate is well below the 95% recommended by WHO to protect against measles –often the first disease to resurge when children are not reached with vaccines - and insufficient to stop other vaccine-preventable diseases.With many resources and personnel diverted to support the COVID-19 response, there have been significant disruptions to immunization service provision in many parts of the world. In some countries, clinics have been closed or hours reduced, while people may have been reluctant to seek healthcare because of fear of transmission or have experienced challenges reaching services due to lockdown measures and transportation disruptions.“These are alarming numbers, suggesting the pandemic is unravelling years of progress in routine immunization and exposing millions of children to deadly, preventable diseases”, said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “This is a wake-up call – we cannot allow a legacy of COVID-19 to be the resurgence of measles, polio and other killers. We all need to work together to help countries both defeat COVID-19, by ensuring global, equitable access to vaccines, and get routine immunization programmes back on track. The future health and wellbeing of millions of children and their communities across the globe depends on it.” Concerns are not just for outbreak-prone diseases. Already at low rates, vaccinations against human papillomavirus (HPV) - which protect girls against cervical cancer later in life - have been highly affected by school closures. As a result, across countries that have introduced HPV vaccine to date, approximately 1.6 million more girls missed out in 2020. Globally only 13% girls were vaccinated against HPV, falling from 15% in 2019.Agencies call for urgent recovery and investment in routine immunizationAs countries work to recover lost ground due to COVID-19 related disruptions, UNICEF, WHO and partners like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance are supporting efforts to strengthen immunization systems by:Restoring services and vaccination campaigns so countries can safely deliver routine immunization programmes during the COVID-19 pandemic;Helping health workers and community leaders communicate actively with caregivers to explain the importance of vaccinations;Rectifying gaps in immunization coverage, including identifying communities and people who have been missed during the pandemic.Ensuring that COVID-19 vaccine delivery is independently planned for and financed and that it occurs alongside, and not at the cost of childhood vaccination services.Implementing country plans to prevent and respond to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, and strengthen immunization systems as part of COVID-19 recovery effortsThe agencies are working with countries and partners to deliver the ambitious targets of the global Immunization Agenda 2030, which aims to achieve 90% coverage for essential childhood vaccines; halve the number of entirely unvaccinated, or ‘zero dose’ children, and increase the uptake of newer lifesaving vaccines such as rotavirus or pneumococcus in low and middle-income countries.###Notes for editorsAccess the full data set here (from 15th July 2021): https://www.who.int/data/immunizationMultimedia: https://who.canto.global/b/PLVSO  https://weshare.unicef.org/Package/2AMZIFH25X95Vaccines For All campaign page: https://www.unicef.org/vaccinesAbout the dataBased on country-reported data, the official WHO and UNICEF estimates of national immunization coverage (WUENIC) provide the world’s largest data-set on immunization trends for vaccinations against 13 diseases given through regular health systems - normally at clinics or community centres or health worker visits. For 2020, data was provided from 160 countries.Globally, the vaccination rate for three doses of diphtheria-tetanus and pertussis (DTP-3) vaccine fell from around 86% in 2019 to 83% in 2020, meaning 22.7 million children missed out, and for measles first dose, from 86 to 84%, meaning 22.3 million children missed out. Vaccination rates for measles second dose were at 71% (from 70% in 2019).  To control measles, 95% uptake of two vaccine doses is required; countries that cannot reach that level rely on periodic nationwide vaccination campaigns to fill the gap. In addition to routine immunization disruptions, there are currently 57 postponed mass vaccination campaigns in 66 countries, for measles, polio, yellow fever and other diseases, affecting millions more people.New modelling also shows significant declines in DTP, measles vaccination coverageNew modelling, also published today in The Lancet by researchers at the Washington-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), similarly shows that childhood vaccination declined globally in 2020 due to COVID-19 disruptions. The IHME-led modelling is based on country-reported administrative data for DTP and measles vaccines, supplemented by reports on electronic medical records and human movement data captured through anonymized tracking of mobile phones.Both analyses show that countries and the broader health community must ensure that new waves of COVID-19 and the massive roll out of COVID 19 vaccines don’t derail routine immunization and that catch-up activities continue to be enhanced. 

  • UN report: Pandemic year marked by spike in world hunger
    on Jul 9 2021 at 08:28

    There was a dramatic worsening of world hunger in 2020, the United Nations said today – much of it likely related to the fallout of COVID-19. While the pandemic’s impact has yet to be fully mapped, a multi-agency report estimates that around a tenth of the global population – up to 811 million people – were undernourished last year. The number suggests it will take a tremendous effort for the world to honour its pledge to end hunger by 2030.  This year’s edition ofThe State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is the first global assessment of its kind in the pandemic era. The report is jointly published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).Previous editions had already put the world on notice that the food security of millions – many children among them – was at stake. “Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to expose weaknesses in our food systems, which threaten the lives and livelihoods of people around the world,” the heads of the five UN agencies write in this year’s Foreword.They go on to warn of a “critical juncture,” even as they pin fresh hopes on increased diplomatic momentum. “This year offers a unique opportunity for advancing food security and nutrition through transforming food systems with the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit, the Nutrition for Growth Summit and the COP26 on climate change.” “The outcome of these events,” the five add, “will go on to shape the second half of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition” – a global policy commitment yet to hit its stride.The numbers in detailAlready in the mid-2010s, hunger had started creeping upwards, dashing hopes of irreversible decline. Disturbingly, in 2020 hunger shot up in both absolute and proportional terms, outpacing population growth: some 9.9 percent of all people are estimated to have been undernourished last year, up from 8.4 percent in 2019.More than half of all undernourished people (418 million) live in Asia; more than a third (282 million) in Africa; and a smaller proportion (60 million) in Latin America and the Caribbean. But the sharpest rise in hunger was in Africa, where the estimated prevalence of undernourishment – at 21 percent of the population – is more than double that of any other region.On other measurements too, the year 2020 was sombre. Overall, more than 2.3 billion people (or 30 percent of the global population) lacked year-round access to adequate food: this indicator – known as the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity – leapt in one year as much in as the preceding five combined. Gender inequality deepened: for every 10 food-insecure men, there were 11 food-insecure women in 2020 (up from 10.6 in 2019).Malnutrition persisted in all its forms, with children paying a high price: in 2020, over 149 million under-fives are estimated to have been stunted, or too short for their age; more than 45 million – wasted, or too thin for their height; and nearly 39 million – overweight. A full three-billion adults and children remained locked out of healthy diets, largely due to excessive costs. Nearly a third of women of reproductive age suffer from anaemia. Globally, despite progress in some areas – more infants, for example, are being fed exclusively on breast milk – the world is not on track to achieve targets for any nutrition indicators by 2030.Other hunger and malnutrition driversIn many parts of the world, the pandemic has triggered brutal recessions and jeopardized access to food. Yet even before the pandemic, hunger was spreading; progress on malnutrition lagged. This was all the more so in nations affected by conflict, climate extremes or other economic downturns, or battling high inequality – all of which the report identifies as major drivers of food insecurity, which in turn interact.On current trends, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World estimates that Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger by 2030) will be missed by a margin of nearly 660 million people. Of these 660 million, some 30 million may be linked to the pandemic’s lasting effects.What can (still) be doneAs outlined in last year’s report, transforming food systems is essential to achieve food security, improve nutrition and put healthy diets within reach of all. This year’s edition goes further to outline six “transformation pathways”. These, the authors say, rely on a “coherent set of policy and investment portfolios” to counteract the hunger and malnutrition drivers.Depending on the particular driver (or combination of drivers) confronting each country, the report urges policymakers to:Integrate humanitarian, development and peacebuilding policies in conflict areas – for example, through social protection measures to prevent families from selling meagre assets in exchange for food;Scale up climate resilience across food systems – for example, by offering smallholder farmers wide access to climate risk insurance and forecast-based financing;Strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable to economic adversity – for example, through in-kind or cash support programmes to lessen the impact of pandemic-style shocks or food price volatility;Intervene along supply chains to lower the cost of nutritious foods – for example, by encouraging the planting of biofortified crops or making it easier for fruit and vegetable growers to access markets;Tackle poverty and structural inequalities – for example, by boosting food value chains in poor communities through technology transfers and certification programmes;Strengthen food environments and changing consumer behaviour – for example, by eliminating industrial trans fats and reducing the salt and sugar content in the food supply, or protecting children from the negative impact of food marketing.The report also calls for an “enabling environment of governance mechanisms and institutions” to make transformation possible. It enjoins policymakers to consult widely; to empower women and youth; and to expand the availability of data and new technologies. Above all, the authors urge, the world must act now – or watch the drivers of hunger and malnutrition recur with growing intensity in coming years, long after the shock of the pandemic has passed. Read the full report here and the In-Brief report here. GLOSSARYHunger: an uncomfortable or painful sensation caused by insufficient energy from diet. Food deprivation; not eating enough calories. Used here interchangeably with (chronic) undernourishment. Measured by the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU).Moderate food insecurity: a state of uncertainty about the ability to get food; a risk of skipping meals or seeing food run out; being forced to compromise on the nutritional quality and/or quantity of food consumed.Severe food insecurity: running out of food; experienced hunger; at the most extreme, having to go without food for a day or more.Malnutrition: the condition associated with deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in the consumption of macro- and/or micronutrients. For example, undernutrition and obesity are both forms of malnutrition. Child stunting or wasting are both indicators for undernutrition.

  • WHO recommends life-saving interleukin-6 receptor blockers for COVID-19 and urges producers to join efforts to rapidly increase access
    on Jul 6 2021 at 19:28

    The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its patient care guidelines to include interleukin-6 receptor blockers, a class of medicines that are lifesaving in patients who are severely or critically ill with COVID-19, especially when administered alongside corticosteroids. These were the findings from a prospective and a living network meta-analysis initiated by WHO, the largest such analysis on the drugs to date. Data from over 10 000 patients enrolled in 27 clinical trials were considered. These are the first drugs found to be effective against COVID-19 since corticosteroids were recommended by WHO in September 2020. Patients severely or critically ill with COVID-19 often suffer from an overreaction of the immune system, which can be very harmful to the patient’s health. Interleukin-6 blocking drugs – tocilizumab and sarilumab – act to suppress this overreaction.  The prospective and living network meta-analyses showed that in severely or critically ill patients, administering these drugs reduce the odds of death by 13%, compared to standard care. This means that there will be 15 fewer deaths per thousand patients, and as many as 28 fewer deaths for every thousand critically ill patients. The odds of mechanical ventilation among severe and critical patients are reduced by 28%, compared with standard care. This translates to 23 fewer patients out of a thousand needing mechanical ventilation. Clinical trial investigators in 28 countries shared data with WHO, including pre-publication data. Researchers worldwide compiled and analyzed the data. With the support of these critical partnerships, WHO has been able to issue a rapid and trustworthy recommendation for the use of interleukin-6 receptor blockers in severe and critical COVID-19 patients.“These drugs offer hope for patients and families who are suffering from the devastating impact of severe and critical COVID-19. But IL-6 receptor blockers remain inaccessible and unaffordable for the majority of the world,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.“The inequitable distribution of vaccines means that people in low- and middle-income countries are most susceptible to severe forms of COVID-19. So, the greatest need for these drugs is in countries that currently have the least access. We must urgently change this.” To increase access and affordability of these life-saving products, WHO calls on manufacturers to reduce prices and make supplies available to low- and middle-income countries, especially where COVID-19 is surging. WHO also encourages companies to agree to transparent, non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements using the C-TAP platform and the Medicines Patent Pool, or to waive exclusivity rights.In addition, WHO has launched an expression of interest for prequalification of manufacturers of interleukin-6 receptor blockers. Prequalification of innovator and biosimilar products aims to expand the availability of quality-assured products and to increase access through market competition and reduce prices to meet urgent public health needs.

  • WHO pledges extensive commitments towards women’s empowerment and health
    on Jul 5 2021 at 15:07

    The World Health Organization announced multiple commitments to drive change for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in all their diversity at the Generation Equality Forum, held last week in Paris. The WHO commitments focused on ending gender-based violence; advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights; and supporting health workers as well as feminist movements and leadership. These commitments shape a progressive and transformative blueprint for advancing gender equality, health equity, human rights and the empowerment of women and girls globally.The Forum, marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on Women, came at a critical moment, with COVID-19 having exacerbated existing gender inequalities. WHO led in two key areas of the Forum: the Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence (co-led with UN Women and other partners) and the Gender Equal Health and Care Workforce Initiative between France, Women in Global Health and WHO.Recognizing the health sector has an important role to play in preventing and responding to gender-based violence against women and girls, WHO committed to: Increasing the number of countries with clinical protocols focusing on a comprehensive, survivor-centred, empathetic health response for women and girls subjected to violence;Working with partners to scale up evidence-based prevention of violence against women and girls in 25 countries with high prevalence, guided by the RESPECT framework;Developing and supporting the uptake by health providers, policy makers and managers of a training course on health responses to violence against women and girls through the WHO Academy;Establishing a comprehensive database to monitor implementation of the Global Action Plan and regularly publishing prevalence estimates from the Global Database; Working with sister UN agencies to scale up the availability of essential, multi-sectoral and survivor-centred services with functional referral mechanisms, for women and girls in all their diversity, in at least 25 high prevalence countries;Supporting the implementation of the Global Plan of Action on health systems’ response to violence against women and girls.WHO will partner with Wellspring, Ford Foundation, UN Women and the Government of the United Kingdom, in the launch of the Shared Agenda Advocacy Accelerator (the Accelerator) to advocate for increasing resources for preventing violence against women and girls. WHO will support the implementation of the International Labour Organization Convention No. 190 on Eliminating Violence and Harassment in the World of Work including by providing training to staff on a new internal policy, Preventing and Addressing Abusive Conduct. WHO also committed to investing in the evidence base for sexual and reproductive health and rights, including delivering comprehensive sexuality education outside school settings; improving access to quality and rights-based family planning in 14 middle-income countries ; supporting 25 countries in increasing adolescents’ access to and use of contraception; disseminating updated guidelines on safe abortion; and building knowledge among adolescents of their entitlements and ability to advocate for their needs. Together with UNFPA and UNICEF, WHO committed to work to end harmful practices like female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriages. The health sector will be supported to end medicalization of female genital mutilation and provide quality health services to women and girls living with female genital mutilation and married girls.  At a high-level event focusing on the Gender Equal Health and Care Workforce Initiative, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated WHO’s commitment to advocating for decent and safe work conditions for all health and care workers, especially women. Several countries and organizations announced commitments towards the four pillars of the Initiative: gender equal leadership; equal pay; protection against sexual harassment and violence; decent and safe working conditions. The Gender Equal Health and Care Workforce Initiative will convene again during the United Nations General Assembly in September 2021.WHO along with other UN agencies declared solidarity with and support to feminist movements and women human rights defenders, committing to expand an open, safe and inclusive civic space for their work. This commitment is closely linked to the UN Secretary-General's Call to Action for Human Rights and the recently published UN Guidance on Promoting and Protecting Civic Space. WHO will:Update its gender policy, strategy and roadmap;Open specific internship opportunities for individuals with feminist leadership experience;Promote civil society participation in health systems, COVID-19 response and recovery activities;Promote and encourage gender parity in World Health Assembly delegations, WHO panels and advisory groups; andFacilitate menstrual hygiene and promote awareness.WHO, as part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, also committed to  support countries to address gender-related barriers to polio vaccination, collect and analyse sex-disaggregated data to ensure girls and boys are reached equally, and to increase women’s meaningful participation and decision-making across all levels of the programme.WHO has committed to accelerating and scaling up its efforts to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. An organization-wide task team, headed by a Director reporting to the Director-General, will bring together WHO’s accountability functions that deal with these issues within WHO programmes and operations the field. The aim is to increase policy coherence, address gaps, and ensure that implementation of policy and procedures has sufficient impact to protect women, their families and communities.There will be a priority focus on how allegations and cases are managed, and practical measures on how emergency and programmatic operations can safeguard people more effectively from sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. The Task Team will work with partners on the ground to empower communities to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. They will also prioritize engagement with the UN systems, international partners and external experts to move this important work forward. Some of the activities currently being scaled up include awareness raising in communities; engaging female and male community focal points to empower women to be alert to and use community-based complaint mechanisms safely; and measures to strengthen survivor-based services for women through the health system and in the community. 

  • New recommendations for screening and treatment to prevent cervical cancer
    on Jul 5 2021 at 14:45

    Too many women worldwide – particularly the poorest women – continue to die from cervical cancer; a disease which is both preventable and treatable. Today, WHO and HRP have launched a new guideline to help countries make faster progress, more equitably, on the screening and treatment of this devastating disease.Ending suffering from cervical cancerLast year, in 2020, more than half a million women contracted cervical cancer, and about 342 000 women died as a result – most in the poorest countries. Quick and accurate screening programmes are critical so that every woman with cervical disease gets the treatment she needs, and avoidable deaths are prevented. WHO’s global strategy for cervical cancer elimination– endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2020 –  calls for 70% of women globally to be screened regularly for cervical disease with a high-performance test, and for 90% of those needing it to receive appropriate treatment. Alongside vaccination of girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV), implementing this global strategy could prevent more than  62 million deaths from cervical cancer in the next 100 years.“Effective and accessible cervical screening and treatment programmes in every country are non-negotiable if we are going to end the unimaginable suffering caused by cervical cancer,” says Dr Princess Nono Simelela, Assistant Director-General for Strategic Programmatic Priorities: Cervical Cancer Elimination. “This new WHO guideline will guide public health investment in better diagnostic tools, stronger implementation processes and more acceptable options for screening to reach more women –  and save more lives.”A shift in careThe new guideline include some important shifts in WHO’s recommended approaches to cervical screening. In particular, it recommends an HPV DNA based test as the preferred method, rather than visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) or cytology (commonly known as a ‘Pap smear’), currently the most commonly used methods globally to detect pre-cancer lesions. HPV-DNA testing detects high-risk strains of HPV which cause almost all cervical cancers. Unlike tests that rely on visual inspection, HPV-DNA testing is an objective diagnostic, leaving no space for interpretation of results. Although the process for a healthcare provider obtaining a cervical sample is similar with both cytology or HPV DNA testing, HPV DNA testing is simpler, prevents more pre-cancers and cancer, and saves more lives than VIA or cytology. In addition, it is more cost-effective.More access to commodities and self-sampling is another route to consider for reaching the global strategy target of 70% testing by 2030. WHO suggests that self-collected samples can be used when providing HPV DNA testing. Studies show that women often feel more comfortable taking their own samples, for instance in the comfort of their own home, rather than going to see a provider for screening. However, women need to receive appropriate support to feel confident in managing the process. Recommendations respond to the link between HPV and HIVWomen who are immunocompromised, such as those living with HIV, are particularly vulnerable to cervical disease; they are more likely to have persistent HPV infections and more rapid progression to pre-cancer and cancer. This results in a six-fold higher risk of cervical cancer among women living with HIV. In recognition of this, the new guideline include recommendations which are specific for women living with HIV. This includes using an HPV DNA primary screening test followed by a triage test if results are positive for HPV, to evaluate the results for risk of cervical cancer and need for treatment. The global recommendations also advise that screening start at an earlier age (25 years of age) than for the general population of women (30 years of age). Women living with HIV also need to be retested after a shorter time interval following a positive test and following treatment than women without HIV. “With these new guidelines, we must leverage the platforms already developed for HIV care and treatment to better integrate cervical cancer screening and treatment to meet the health needs and rights of the diverse group of women living with HIV to increase access, improve coverage, and save lives” Dr. Meg Doherty, Director, WHO Department of Global HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Programmes.Every intervention counts to eliminate cervical cancerData showing where countries around the world currently stand in relation to their burden of cervical cancer and coverage for screening and treatment, are due to be published by the end of 2021. These country profiles can help ministries of health identify where their programmes need strengthening and measure progress towards the 2030 targets. For a cervical cancer prevention and control programme to have impact, strengthening patient retention and ensuring rapid treatment of women who screen positive for HPV or cervical pre-cancer is a fundamental priority.“Cost-effectiveness of screening tests is important for scaling up programmes, but other aspects of the public health approach to eliminating cervical cancer are also vital,” said Dr Nathalie Broutet, WHO Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research and HRP. “What matters most is the coherence of every country’s programme in ensuring the continuum of care: that all women have access to screening, health care providers are informed in a timely manner about the results of the screening test and can in turn share this information with their client, and that women can access appropriate treatment or referral if needed.” WHO calls for all women to ensure they get regular cervical cancer screening tests in line with the recommendations of their local health authority. Summary recommendation for the general population of womenSummary recommendation for women living with HIVWHO suggests using either of the following strategies for cervical cancer prevention:HPV DNA detection in a screen-and-treat approach starting at the age of 30 years with regular screening every 5 to 10 years.HPV DNA detection in a screen, triage and treat approach starting at the age of 30 years with regular screening every 5 to 10 years.WHO suggests using the following strategy for cervical cancer prevention among women living with HIV:HPV DNA detection in a screen, triage and treat approach starting at the age of 25 with regular screening every 3 to 5 years.  

  • Joint COVAX Statement on the Equal Recognition of Vaccines
    on Jul 1 2021 at 10:57

    COVAX was built on the principle of equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to protect the health of people all across the globe. That means protecting their lives and livelihoods, including their ability to travel and conduct trade. As travel and other possibilities begin to open up in some parts of the world, COVAX urges all regional, national and local government authorities to recognise as fully vaccinated all people who have received COVID-19 vaccines that have been deemed safe and effective by the World Health Organization and/or the 11 Stringent Regulatory Authorities (SRAs) approved for COVID-19 vaccines, when making decisions on who is able to travel or attend events.Any measure that only allows people protected by a subset of WHO-approved vaccines to benefit from the re-opening of travel into and with that region would effectively create a two-tier system, further widening the global vaccine divide and exacerbating the inequities we have already seen in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. It would negatively impact the growth of economies that are already suffering the most.Such moves are already undermining confidence in life-saving vaccines that have already been shown to be safe and effective, affecting uptake of vaccines and potentially putting billions of people at risk. At a time when the world is trying to resume trade, commerce and travel, this is counter-effective, both in spirit and outcome.COVAX commends countries that have already shown commitment to equity as well as safety by accepting travelers protected by all vaccines validated by WHO Emergency Use Listing (EUL) and/or the 11 Stringent Regulatory Authorities (SRAs) approved for COVID-19 vaccines. We call on other nations and regions to do the same.   Notes to editorsAbout COVAXCOVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-convened by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with UNICEF as key implementing partner, developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, and others. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.CEPI’s role in COVAXCEPI is leading on the COVAX vaccine research and development portfolio, investing in R&D across a variety of promising candidates, with the goal to support development of three safe and effective vaccines which can be made available to countries participating in the COVAX Facility. As part of this work, CEPI has secured first right of refusal to potentially over one billion doses for the COVAX Facility to a number of candidates, and made strategic investments in vaccine manufacturing, which includes reserving capacity to manufacture doses of COVAX vaccines at a network of facilities, and securing glass vials to hold 2 billion doses of vaccine. CEPI is also investing in the ‘next generation’ of vaccine candidates, which will give the world additional options to control COVID-19 in the future.Gavi’s role in COVAXGavi leads on procurement and delivery at scale for COVAX: designing and managing the COVAX Facility and the Gavi COVAX AMC and working with its traditional Alliance partners UNICEF and WHO, along with governments, on country readiness and delivery. As part of this role, Gavi hosts the Office of the COVAX Facility to coordinate the operation and governance of the mechanism as a whole, holds financial and legal relationships with 193 Facility participants, and manages the COVAX Facility deals portfolio: negotiating advance purchase agreements with manufacturers of promising vaccine candidates to secure doses on behalf of all COVAX Facility participants. Gavi also coordinates design, operationalisation and fundraising for the Gavi COVAX AMC, the mechanism that provides access to donor-funded doses of vaccine to 92 lower-income economies. As part of this work, Gavi provides funding and oversight for UNICEF procurement and delivery of vaccines to all AMC participants – operationalising the advance purchase agreements between Gavi and manufacturers – as well as support for partners’ and governments work on readiness and delivery. This includes tailored support to governments, UNICEF, WHO and other partners for cold chain equipment, technical assistance, syringes, vehicles, and other aspects of the vastly complex logistical operation for delivery. Gavi also co-designed, raises funds for and supports the operationalisation of the AMC’s no fault compensation mechanism as well as the COVAX Humanitarian Buffer.WHO’s role in COVAXWHO has multiple roles within COVAX: It provides normative guidance on vaccine policy, regulation, safety, R&D, allocation, and country readiness and delivery. Its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization develops evidence-based immunization policy recommendations. Its Emergency Use Listing (EUL) / prequalification programmes ensure harmonized review and authorization across member states. It provides global coordination and member state support on vaccine safety monitoring. It developed the target product profiles for COVID-19 vaccines and provides R&D technical coordination. WHO leads, together with UNICEF, the Country Readiness and Delivery workstream, which provides support to countries as they prepare to receive and administer vaccines. Along with Gavi and numerous other partners working at the global, regional, and country-level, the CRD workstream provides tools, guidance, monitoring, and on the ground technical assistance for the planning and roll-out of the vaccines. Along with COVAX partners, WHO has developed a no-fault compensation scheme as part of the time-limited indemnification and liability commitmentsUNICEF’s role in COVAXUNICEF is leveraging its experience as the largest single vaccine buyer in the world and working with manufacturers and partners on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine doses, as well as freight, logistics and storage. UNICEF already procures more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunisation and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries. In collaboration with the PAHO Revolving Fund, UNICEF is leading efforts to procure and supply doses of COVID-19 vaccines for COVAX. In addition, UNICEF, Gavi and WHO are working with governments around the clock to ensure that countries are ready to receive the vaccines, with appropriate cold chain equipment in place and health workers trained to dispense them. UNICEF is also playing a lead role in efforts to foster trust in vaccines, delivering vaccine confidence communications and tracking and addressing misinformation around the world.About ACT-AcceleratorThe Access to COVID-19 Tools ACT-Accelerator, is a new, ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. It was set up in response to a call from G20 leaders in March and launched by the WHO, European Commission, France and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020.The ACT-Accelerator is not a decision-making body or a new organisation, but works to speed up collaborative efforts among existing organisations to end the pandemic. It is a framework for collaboration that has been designed to bring key players around the table with the goal of ending the pandemic as quickly as possible through the accelerated development, equitable allocation, and scaled up delivery of tests, treatments and vaccines, thereby protecting health systems and restoring societies and economies in the near term. It draws on the experience of leading global health organisations which are tackling the world’s toughest health challenges, and who, by working together, are able to unlock new and more ambitious results against COVID-19. Its members share a commitment to ensure all people have access to all the tools needed to defeat COVID-19 and to work with unprecedented levels of partnership to achieve it.The ACT-Accelerator has four areas of work: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and the health system connector. Cross-cutting all of these is the workstream on Access & Allocation. 

  • First Meeting of the Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccines, Therapeutics and Diagnostics for Developing Countries
    on Jun 30 2021 at 19:42

    The Heads of the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization today convened for the first meeting of the Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccines, Therapeutics and Diagnostics for Developing Countries. They issued the following joint statement: “As many countries are struggling with new variants and a third wave of COVID-19 infections, accelerating access to vaccines becomes even more critical to ending the pandemic everywhere and achieving broad-based growth. We are deeply concerned about the limited vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and support for deliveries available to developing countries. Urgent action is needed now to arrest the rising human toll due to the pandemic, and to halt further divergence in the economic recovery between advanced economies and the rest. We have formed a Task Force, as a “war room” to help track, coordinate and advance delivery of COVID-19 health tools to developing countries and to mobilize relevant stakeholders and national leaders to remove critical roadblocks—in support of the priorities set out by World Bank Group, IMF, WHO, and WTO including in the joint statements of June 1 and June 3, and in the IMF staff’s $50 billion proposal. At today’s first meeting, we discussed the urgency of increasing supplies of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics for developing countries. We also looked at practical and effective ways to track, coordinate and advance delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries. As an urgent first step, we are calling on G20 countries to (1) embrace the target of at least 40 percent in every country by end-2021, and at least 60 percent by the first half of 2022, (2) share more vaccine doses now, including by ensuring at least  1 billion doses are shared with developing countries in 2021 starting immediately, (3) provide financing, including grants and concessional financing, to close the residual gaps, including for the ACT-Accelerator, and (4) remove all barriers to export of inputs and finished vaccines, and other barriers to supply chain operations. In addition, to enhance transparency we agreed to compile data on dose requests (by type and quantity), contracts, deliveries (including through donations), and deployments of COVID-19 vaccines to low and middle-income countries—and make it available as part of a shared country-level dashboard. We also agreed to take steps to address hesitancy, and to coordinate efforts to address gaps in readiness, so countries are positioned to receive, deploy and administer vaccines.” 

  • Joint Statement by the Heads of the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization on the First Meeting of the Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccines, Therapeutics and Diagnostics for Developing Countries
    on Jun 30 2021 at 19:23

    The Heads of the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization today convened for the first meeting of the Task Force on COVID-19 Vaccines, Therapeutics and Diagnostics for Developing Countries. They issued the following joint statement: “As many countries are struggling with new variants and a third wave of COVID-19 infections, accelerating access to vaccines becomes even more critical to ending the pandemic everywhere and achieving broad-based growth. We are deeply concerned about the limited vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and support for deliveries available to developing countries. Urgent action is needed now to arrest the rising human toll due to the pandemic, and to halt further divergence in the economic recovery between advanced economies and the rest.We have formed a Task Force, as a “war room” to help track, coordinate and advance delivery of COVID-19 health tools to developing countries and to mobilize relevant stakeholders and national leaders to remove critical roadblocks—in support of the priorities set out by World Bank Group, IMF, WHO, and WTO including in the joint statements of June 1 and June 3, and in the IMF staff’s $50 billion proposal.At today’s first meeting, we discussed the urgency of increasing supplies of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics for developing countries. We also looked at practical and effective ways to track, coordinate and advance delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries. As an urgent first step, we are calling on G20 countries to (1) embrace the target of at least 40 percent in every country by end-2021, and at least 60 percent by the first half of 2022, (2) share more vaccine doses now, including by ensuring at least  1 billion doses are shared with developing countries in 2021 starting immediately, (3) provide financing, including grants and concessional financing, to close the residual gaps, including for the ACT-Accelerator, and (4) remove all barriers to export of inputs and finished vaccines, and other barriers to supply chain operations. In addition, to enhance transparency we agreed to compile data on dose requests (by type and quantity), contracts, deliveries (including through donations), and deployments of COVID-19 vaccines to low and middle-income countries—and make it available as part of a shared country-level dashboard. We also agreed to take steps to address hesitancy, and to coordinate efforts to address gaps in readiness, so countries are positioned to receive, deploy and administer vaccines.” 

  • WHO and Global Fund Sign Cooperation Agreement to Scale Up HIV, TB and Malaria Interventions and Strengthen Health Systems
    on Jun 30 2021 at 07:15

    The World Health Organization and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria signed a cooperation and financing agreement to implement 10 strategic initiatives to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics and strengthen systems for health. This new agreement, which will cover the 2021-2023 implementation period, aims to address some of the persistent challenges that impede progress against the three diseases and protect hard-won gains from new pandemics like COVID-19. In 2019, a total of 1.4 million people died from tuberculosis and an estimated 409,000 people died from malaria. In 2020, 690,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses. Through the new agreement, the strategic initiatives seek to: Expand TB preventive treatment for people living with HIV in 9 countries across Africa;Strengthen efforts to provide differentiated HIV service delivery; Accelerate efforts to find people with TB missed by health systems in 20 countries;Accelerate introduction of innovation for multi-drug resistant TB treatment through regional operational research in Eastern and Central Europe;Support 26 countries and territories to eliminate malaria by 2025;Improve country data collection and use to develop evidence-informed policy;Foster the rapid uptake of service delivery innovations with South to South Learning; Improve quality of care;Encourage rapid uptake of procurement and supply chain management innovation; andIncrease program sustainability, facilitate the transition to domestic financing and improve program efficiency.WHO and the Global Fund have a long and successful partnership working together to scale up HIV, TB and malaria interventions and strengthen health systems in many countries. Through focused efforts and catalytic investments, this collaboration has contributed to significantly reduce the disease burdens of HIV, TB and malaria worldwide, saving millions of lives since 2002. “The COVID-19 pandemic, more than ever, reinforces the need to strengthen our partnership to achieve our shared goals of ending the epidemics,” said Dr Mubashar Sheikh, Director, Deputy Director-General’s Office, WHO. “This agreement supports countries to develop more effective responses to the HIV, tuberculosis and malaria epidemics and build the resilient health systems they need to reach the most vulnerable.”“Together, WHO and the Global Fund have proven to be a powerful force that builds on strong in-country support and regional presence, technical leadership and financial resources to strengthen systems for health and accelerate the end of AIDS, TB and malaria as epidemics,” said Michael Byrne, Head of Technical Advice and Partnerships at the Global Fund. “This new agreement will help overcome the multiple challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, safeguard and expand HIV, TB and malaria programs.”   

  • WHO issues first global report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in health and six guiding principles for its design and use
    on Jun 28 2021 at 06:53

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds great promise for improving the delivery of healthcare and medicine worldwide, but only if ethics and human rights are put at the heart of its design, deployment, and use, according to new WHO guidance published today. The report, Ethics and governance of artificial intelligence for health, is the result of 2 years of consultations held by a panel of international experts appointed by WHO. “Like all new technology, artificial intelligence holds enormous potential for improving the health of millions of people around the world, but like all technology it can also be misused and cause harm,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This important new report provides a valuable guide for countries on how to maximize the benefits of AI, while minimizing its risks and avoiding its pitfalls.” Artificial intelligence can be, and in some wealthy countries is already being used to improve the speed and accuracy of diagnosis and screening for diseases; to assist with clinical care; strengthen health research and drug development, and support diverse public health interventions, such as disease surveillance, outbreak response, and health systems management. AI could also empower patients to take greater control of their own health care and better understand their evolving needs. It could also enable resource-poor countries and rural communities, where patients often have restricted access to health-care workers or medical professionals, to bridge gaps in access to health services.However, WHO’s new report cautions against overestimating the benefits of AI for health, especially when this occurs at the expense of core investments and strategies required to achieve universal health coverage.It also points out that opportunities are linked to challenges and risks, including unethical collection and use of health data; biases encoded in algorithms, and risks of AI to patient safety, cybersecurity, and the environment.       For example, while private and public sector investment in the development and deployment of AI is critical, the unregulated use of AI could subordinate the rights and interests of patients and communities to the powerful commercial interests of technology companies or the interests of governments in surveillance and social control. The report also emphasizes that systems trained primarily on data collected from individuals in high-income countries may not perform well for individuals in low- and middle-income settings. AI systems should therefore be carefully designed to reflect the diversity of socio-economic and health-care settings. They should be accompanied by training in digital skills, community engagement and awareness-raising, especially for millions of healthcare workers who will require digital literacy or retraining if their roles and functions are automated, and who must contend with machines that could challenge the decision-making and autonomy of providers and patients. Ultimately, guided by existing laws and human rights obligations, and new laws and policies that enshrine ethical principles, governments, providers, and designers must work together to address ethics and human rights concerns at every stage of an AI technology’s design, development, and deployment.  Six principles to ensure AI works for the public interest in all countriesTo limit the risks and maximize the opportunities intrinsic to the use of AI for health, WHO provides the following principles as the basis for AI regulation and governance:Protecting human autonomy: In the context of health care, this means that humans should remain in control of health-care systems and medical decisions; privacy and confidentiality should be protected, and patients must give valid informed consent through appropriate legal frameworks for data protection.Promoting human well-being and safety and the public interest. The designers of AI technologies should satisfy regulatory requirements for safety, accuracy and efficacy for well-defined use cases or indications. Measures of quality control in practice and quality improvement in the use of AI must be available. Ensuring transparency, explainability and intelligibility. Transparency requires that sufficient information be published or documented before the design or deployment of an AI technology. Such information must be easily accessible and facilitate meaningful public consultation and debate on how the technology is designed and how it should or should not be used. Fostering responsibility and accountability. Although AI technologies perform specific tasks, it is the responsibility of stakeholders to ensure that they are used under appropriate conditions and by appropriately trained people. Effective mechanisms should be available for questioning and for redress for individuals and groups that are adversely affected by decisions based on algorithms.Ensuring inclusiveness and equity. Inclusiveness requires that AI for health be designed to encourage the widest possible equitable use and access, irrespective of age, sex, gender, income, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability or other characteristics protected under human rights codes. Promoting AI that is responsive and sustainable. Designers, developers and users should continuously and transparently assess AI applications during actual use to determine whether AI responds adequately and appropriately to expectations and requirements. AI systems should also be designed to minimize their environmental consequences and increase energy efficiency. Governments and companies should address anticipated disruptions in the workplace, including training for health-care workers to adapt to the use of AI systems, and potential job losses due to use of automated systems.          These principles will guide future WHO work to support efforts to ensure that the full potential of AI for healthcare and public health will be used for the benefits of all.

  • At Local Production Forum, WHO and partners highlight key steps to improve access to health technologies
    on Jun 25 2021 at 15:23

    The first WHO World Local Production Forum ended today after five days of discussions centered on promoting quality and sustainable local production to improve access to medicines and other health technologies.Delegates from over 100 countries, international partners, civil society groups, industry associations, and major investors joined WHO, WTO, UNIDO, UNICEF and UNCTAD to highlight the challenges facing local production and the steps required to address them, as well as the range of opportunities for the sector.  Looking ahead, the Forum will provide a platform to drive forward efforts to support and enhance local production of health products in low- and middle-income countries. Forum conclusions, recommendations and next stepsIncreasing manufacturing capacity for global security - The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of local manufacturing as a key component of pandemic response by reducing reliance on global markets and imported products. Vaccine production was a central theme at the Forum, as were the role of new technologies and generation of flexible manufacturing strategies to develop sustained production capacity in low- and middle-income countries. Technology transfer and licensing were seen as key to scaling up production. Sharing intellectual property and know-how will be essential, along with facilitation of voluntary licensing and effective technology transfer. It will also be vital to create a favourable environment for technology transfer. Key elements will include good governance; a skilled workforce; good access to market information and careful assessment of local capacity to receive and absorb the transferred technology.Governments’ role is key in creating an enabling political environment and a supportive business eco-system. Such efforts must be coordinated with relevant stakeholders at national, regional and global levels. National regulators and local manufacturers can drive quality-compliant local production and facilitate faster access to health technologies during pandemics and beyond.  To do that, they need continued training, support and resources.Low access to capital is a key limiting factor for local manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries. The greater interest expressed by key development banks and other financial institutions towards investing in the sector indicates improvement in this area, whilst the need to develop strong investment cases, including demonstration of a long term economically viable business case, were highlighted as key components of successful manufacturing projects.A mechanism to stimulate industry engagement was recommended for strengthened collaboration with and among industry bodies with the aim of transferring priority technologies to low- and middle-income countries. A strategic advisory group should be established by WHO in collaboration with Member States and partners to address current and future global challenges and trends in local production and technology transfer.The next Forum will be held in The Netherlands as announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, Hugo De Jonge. The Local Production Forum is now established as a long-term mechanism to promote dialogue and decision-making to strengthen local manufacturing capacity and move towards the shared goal of universal access to health technologies. 

  • From 30 million cases to zero: China is certified malaria-free by WHO
    on Jun 25 2021 at 13:42

    Following a 70-year effort, China has been awarded a malaria-free certification from WHO – a notable feat for a country that reported 30 million cases of the disease annually in the 1940s. “Today we congratulate the people of China on ridding the country of malaria,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Their success was hard-earned and came only after decades of targeted and sustained action. With this announcement, China joins the growing number of countries that are showing the world that a malaria-free future is a viable goal.”China is the first country in the WHO Western Pacific Region to be awarded a malaria-free certification in more than 3 decades. Other countries in the region that have achieved this status include Australia (1981), Singapore (1982) and Brunei Darussalam (1987). “Congratulations to China on eliminating malaria,” said Dr Takeshi Kasai, Regional Director, WHO Western Pacific Regional Office. “China’s tireless effort to achieve this important milestone demonstrates how strong political commitment and strengthening national health systems can result in eliminating a disease that once was a major public health problem. China’s achievement takes us one step closer towards the vision of a malaria-free Western Pacific Region.”Globally, 40 countries and territories have been granted a malaria-free certification from WHO – including, most recently, El Salvador (2021), Algeria (2019), Argentina (2019), Paraguay (2018) and Uzbekistan (2018).China’s elimination journey Beginning in the 1950s, health authorities in China worked to locate and stop the spread of malaria by providing preventive antimalarial medicines for people at risk of the disease as well as treatment for those who had fallen ill. The country also made a major effort to reduce mosquito breeding grounds and stepped up the use of insecticide spraying in homes in some areas. In 1967, the Chinese Government launched the “523 Project” – a nation-wide research programme aimed at finding new treatments for malaria. This effort, involving more than 500 scientists from 60 institutions, led to the discovery in the 1970s of artemisinin – the core compound of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), the most effective antimalarial drugs available today.“Over many decades, China’s ability to think outside the box served the country well in its own response to malaria, and also had a significant ripple effect globally,” notes Dr Pedro Alonso, Director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. “The Government and its people were always searching for new and innovative ways to accelerate the pace of progress towards elimination.”In the 1980s, China was one of the first countries in the world to extensively test the use of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) for the prevention of malaria, well before nets were recommended by WHO for malaria control. By 1988, more than 2.4 million nets had been distributed nation-wide. The use of such nets led to substantial reductions in malaria incidence in the areas where they were deployed.    By the end of 1990, the number of malaria cases in China had plummeted to 117 000, and deaths were reduced by 95%. With support from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, beginning in 2003, China stepped up training, staffing, laboratory equipment, medicines and mosquito control, an effort that led to a further reduction in cases; within 10 years, the number of cases had fallen to about 5000 annually.In 2020, after reporting 4 consecutive years of zero indigenous cases, China applied for an official WHO certification of malaria elimination. Members of the independent Malaria Elimination Certification Panel travelled to China in May 2021 to verify the country’s malaria-free status as well as its programme to prevent re-establishment of the disease. Keys to successChina provides a basic public health service package for its residents free of charge. As part of this package, all people in China have access to affordable services for the diagnosis and treatment of malaria, regardless of legal or financial status. Effective multi-sector collaboration was also key to success. In 2010, 13 ministries in China – including those representing health, education, finance, research and science, development, public security, the army, police, commerce, industry and information technology, customs, media and tourism – joined forces to end malaria nationwide.In recent years, the country further reduced its malaria caseload through a strict adherence to the timelines of the “1-3-7” strategy. The “1” signifies the one-day deadline for health facilities to report a malaria diagnosis; by the end of day 3, health authorities are required to confirm a case and determine the risk of spread; and, within 7 days, appropriate measures must be taken to prevent further spread of the disease.Keeping malaria at bay The risk of imported cases of malaria remains a key concern, particularly in southern Yunnan Province, which borders 3 malaria-endemic countries: Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam. China also faces the challenge of imported cases among Chinese nationals returning from sub-Saharan Africa and other malaria-endemic regions.To prevent re-establishment of the disease, the country has stepped up its malaria surveillance in at-risk zones and has engaged actively in regional malaria control initiatives. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, China has maintained trainings for health providers through an online platform and held virtual meetings for the exchange of information on malaria case investigations, among other topics.-----------------------------------------------------------------------Note to the editorWHO malaria-free certification Certification of malaria elimination is the official recognition by WHO of a country’s malaria-free status. WHO grants the certification when a country has demonstrated –with rigorous, credible evidence – that the chain of indigenous malaria transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes has been interrupted nationwide for at least the past three consecutive years.  A country must also demonstrate the capacity to prevent the re-establishment of transmission. The final decision on awarding a malaria-free certification rests with the WHO Director-General, based on a recommendation by the independent Malaria Elimination Certification Panel (MECP). For more on WHO’s malaria-free certification process, visit this link.Virtual forum: “From 30 million cases to zero:  China creates a malaria-free future”On 2 July, representatives from China’s National Health Commission and frontline health workers will join malaria programme managers from other regions, WHO experts and global partners in a virtual forum to share reflections and perspectives on China’s malaria elimination journey. Discussions will be in English with simultaneous interpretation provided in Chinese, French and Spanish. To register for the webinar, visit this link.

  • Directors General of WHO, WIPO and the WTO agree on intensified cooperation in support of access to medical technologies worldwide to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic
    on Jun 23 2021 at 09:20

    The Directors-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Word Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed to enhance their support to members battling COVID-19 by collaborating on a series of workshops to augment the flow of information on the pandemic and by implementing a joint platform for tripartite technical assistance to countries relating to their needs for medical technologies. As a result of their meeting on 15 June, 2021, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Daren Tang and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala issued the following statement.

  • WHO supporting South African consortium to establish first COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub
    on Jun 21 2021 at 13:39

    Geneva/Johannesburg/Paris: The World Health Organization (WHO) and its COVAX partners are working with a South African consortium comprising Biovac, Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish its first COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub.The move follows WHO’s global  call for Expression of Interest (EOI) on 16 April 2021 to establish COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hubs to scale up production and access to COVID vaccines. Over the coming weeks, the partners will negotiate details with the Government of South Africa and public and private partners inside the country and from around the world.South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the full extent of the vaccine gap between developed and developing economies, and how that gap can severely undermine global health security. This landmark initiative is a major advance in the international effort to build vaccine development and manufacturing capacity that will put Africa on a path to self determination. South Africa welcomes the opportunity to host a vaccine technology transfer hub and to build on the capacity and expertise that already exists on the continent to contribute to this effort.”“This is great news, particularly for Africa, which has the least access to vaccines,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of local production to address health emergencies, strengthen regional health security and expand sustainable access to health products.”The announcement follows the recent visit to South Africa by the President of France, Mr Emmanuel Macron, who said his country was committed to supporting efforts in Africa to scale up local manufacturing capacity of COVID-19 vaccines and other medical solutions.“Today is a great day for Africa. It is also a great day for all those who work towards a more equitable access to health products. I am proud for Biovac and our South African partners to have been selected by WHO, as France has been supporting them for years,” said President Macron. “This initiative is the first of a long list to come, that we will keep supporting, with our partners, united in the belief that acting for global public goods is the fight of the century and that it cannot wait.”Technology transfer hubs are training facilities where the technology is established at industrial scale and clinical development performed. Interested manufacturers from low- and middle-income countries can receive training and any necessary licenses to the technology. WHO and partners will bring in the production know-how, quality control and necessary licenses to a single entity to facilitate a broad and rapid technology transfer to multiple recipients.The technology transfer hub will benefit from the Medicines Patent Pool’s (MPP’s) vast experience of intellectual property (IP) management and issuing of IP licenses. MPP is also assisting WHO to negotiate with technical partners and supporting in the governance of the hubs.Biovac is a bio-pharmaceutical company that is the result of a partnership formed with the South African government in 2003 to establish local vaccine manufacturing capability for the provision of vaccines for national health management and security.Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines is a biotechnology company focuses on product development, bulk adjuvant manufacturing and supply and distribution of key biologicals to address unmet healthcare needs.The organizations complement one another, and can each take on different roles within the proposed collaboration: Afrigen will act as developer, Biovac as manufacturer and a consortium of universities as academic supporters providing mRNA know-how, and Africa CDC for technical and regional support.The South African consortium benefits from having existing operating facilities that have spare capacity and because it has experience in technology transfers. It is also a global hub that can start training technology recipients immediately.Other hubs in the pipelineWHO’s April call for expressions of interest has so far generated 28 offers to either provide technology for mRNA vaccines or to host a technology hub or both. There have been 25 expressions of interest from low- and middle-income country respondents who could receive the technology to produce mRNA vaccines.Over the coming weeks, WHO will continue the rolling evaluation of other proposals and identify additional hubs, as needed, to contribute to health security and equity in all regions.Through the COVAX partnership, WHO will continue its assessment of potential mRNA technology donors and will launch subsequent calls for other technologies, such as viral vectors and proteins, in coming months.WHO is also hosting the Local production forum this week, to identify strategies to expand pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity in low- and middle-income countries for COVID-19 and other priority diseases.

  • United Nations statement on the renewal of humanitarian lifeline to millions of people in north-west Syria
    on Jun 19 2021 at 08:32

    Millions of people are pressed up against the border in an active war zone in north-west Syria and remain in need of humanitarian aid to survive. The United Nations (UN) needs cross-border and cross-line access to reach those most in need.We call for the renewal of Security Council authorization for cross-border operations from Turkey to north-west Syria. A failure to do so would immediately stop UN delivery of food, COVID-19 vaccines, critical medical supplies, shelter, protection, clean water and sanitation, and other life-saving assistance to 3.4 million people, including 1 million children. The UN continues engagement with all concerned parties to also allow cross-line convoys into the north-west. They are critical for the expansion of the overall response, but even if deployed regularly they could not replicate the size and scope of the cross-border operation. There is simply no alternative. A large-scale UN cross-border response for an additional 12 months remains essential to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in north-west Syria. Signatories Mr Mark Lowcock, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Mr. António Vitorino, Director General, International Organization for Migration (IOM) Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)Mr David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP)Mr Filippo Grandi, High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ms Henrietta H Fore, Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO)  

  • One in 100 deaths is by suicide
    on Jun 17 2021 at 08:18

    Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide, according to WHO’s latest estimates, published today in “Suicide worldwide in 2019”. Every year, more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer  ̶  or war and homicide. In 2019, more than 700 000 people died by suicide: one in every 100 deaths, prompting WHO to produce new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care.“We cannot – and must not – ignore suicide,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Each one is a tragedy. Our attention to suicide prevention is even more important now, after many months living with the COVID-19 pandemic, with many of the risk factors for suicide   ̶   job loss, financial stress and social isolation – still very much present. The new guidance that WHO is releasing today provides a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts.” Among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence.Rates vary, between countries, regions, and between males and females.More than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100 000 males compared with 5.4 per 100 000 females). Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100 000). For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100 000).Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100 000), European (10.5 per 100 000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100 000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100 000) in 2019. The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100 000). Globally, the suicide rate is decreasing; in the Americas it is going upSuicide rates fell in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, with the global rate decreasing by 36%, with decreases ranging from 17% in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47% in the European Region and 49% in the Western Pacific. But in the Americas Region, rates increased by 17% in the same time period. Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted. Currently only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy. A significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030. LIVE LIFETo support countries in their efforts, WHO is today releasing comprehensive guidance for implementing its LIVE LIFE approach to suicide prevention. The four strategies of this approach are: limiting access to the means of suicide, such as highly hazardous pesticides and firearms; educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide; fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; andearly identification, assessment, management and follow-up of anyone affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.Banning of the most dangerous pesticides: a high-impact intervention Given that pesticide poisoning is estimated to cause 20% of all suicides, and national bans of acutely toxic, highly hazardous pesticides have shown to be cost-effective, such bans are recommended by WHO. Other measures include restricting access to firearms, reducing the size of medication packages, and installing barriers at jump sites.Responsible reporting by the media The guide highlights the role the media plays in relation to suicide. Media reports of suicide can lead to a rise in suicide due to imitation (or copycat suicides) – especially if the report is about a celebrity or describes the method of suicide. The new guide advises monitoring of the reporting of suicide and suggests that media counteract reports of suicide with stories of successful recovery from mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts. It also recommends working with social media companies to increase their awareness and improve their protocols for identifying and removing harmful content.Support for adolescentsAdolescence (10-19 years of age) is a critical period for acquiring socio-emotional skills, particularly since half of mental health conditions appear before 14 years of age. The LIVE LIFE guidance encourages actions including mental health promotion and anti-bullying programmes, links to support services and clear protocols for people working in schools and universities when suicide risk is identified. Early identification and follow-up of people at riskEarly identification, assessment, management and follow-up applies to people who have attempted suicide or are perceived to be at risk. A previous suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for a future suicide. Health-care workers should be trained in early identification, assessment, management and follow-up. Survivors’ groups of people bereaved by suicide can complement support provided by health services. Crisis services should also be available to provide immediate support to individuals in acute distress.The new guidance, which includes examples of suicide prevention interventions that have been implemented across the world, in countries such as Australia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the United States, can be used by anyone who is in interested in implementing suicide prevention activities, whether at national or local level, and in the governmental and nongovernmental sectors alike. “While a comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy should be the ultimate goal for all governments,” said Dr Alexandra Fleischmann, suicide prevention expert at the World Health Organization, “starting suicide prevention with LIVE LIFE interventions can save lives and prevent the heartbreak that follows for those left behind.” 

  • Soaring e-waste affects the health of millions of children, WHO warns
    on Jun 14 2021 at 09:09

    Effective and binding action is urgently required to protect the millions of children, adolescents and expectant mothers worldwide whose health is jeopardized by the informal processing of discarded electrical or electronic devices according to a new ground-breaking report from the World Health Organization: Children and Digital Dumpsites.“With mounting volumes of production and disposal, the world faces what one recent international forum described as a mounting “tsunami of e-waste”, putting lives and health at risk.” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. "In the same way the world has rallied to protect the seas and their ecosystems from plastic and microplastic pollution, we need to rally to protect our most valuable resource –the health of our children – from the growing threat of e-waste.”As many as 12.9 million women are working in the informal waste sector, which potentially exposes them to toxic e-waste and puts them and their unborn children at risk.Meanwhile more than 18 million children and adolescents, some as young as 5 years of age, are actively engaged in the informal industrial sector, of which waste processing is a sub-sector. Children are often engaged by parents or caregivers in e-waste recycling because their small hands are more dexterous than those of adults. Other children live, go to school and play near e-waste recycling centres where high levels of toxic chemicals, mostly lead and mercury, can damage their intellectual abilities Children exposed to e-waste are particularly vulnerable to the toxic chemicals they contain due to their smaller size, less developed organs and rapid rate of growth and development. They absorb more pollutants relative to their size and are less able to metabolize or eradicate toxic substances from their bodies.Impact of e-waste on human healthWorkers, aiming to recover valuable materials such as copper and gold, are at risk of exposure to over 1,000 harmful substances, including lead, mercury, nickel, brominated flame retardants and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).For an expectant mother, exposure to toxic e-waste can affect the health and development of her unborn child for the rest of its life. Potential adverse health effects include negative birth outcomes, such as stillbirth and premature births, as well as low birth weight and length.  Exposure to lead from e-waste recycling activities has been associated with significantly reduced neonatal behavioural neurological assessment scores, increased rates of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavioural problems, changes in child temperament, sensory integration difficulties, and reduced cognitive and language scores.Other adverse child health impacts linked to e-waste include changes in lung function, respiratory and respiratory effects, DNA damage, impaired thyroid function and increased risk of some chronic diseases later in life, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.“A child who eats just one chicken egg from Agbogbloshie, a waste site in Ghana, will absorb 220 times the European Food Safety Authority daily limit for intake of chlorinated dioxins,” said Marie-Noel Brune Drisse, the lead WHO author on the report. “Improper e-waste management is the cause.  This is a rising issue that many countries do not recognize yet as a health problem. If they do not act now, its impacts will have a devastating health effect on children and lay a heavy burden on the health sector in the years to come.” A rapidly escalating problemE-waste volumes are surging globally. According to the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership (GESP), they grew by 21% in the five years up to 2019, when 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated.  For perspective, last year’s e-waste weighed as much as 350 cruise ships placed end to end to form a line 125km long. This growth is projected to continue as the use of computers, mobile phones and other electronics continues to expand, alongside their rapid obsolescence. Only 17.4% of e-waste produced in 2019 reached formal management or recycling facilities, according to the most recent GESP estimates, the rest was illegally dumped, overwhelmingly in low- or middle-income countries, where it is recycled by informal workers.Appropriate collection and recycling of e-waste is key to protect the environment and reduce climate emissions. In 2019, the GESP found that the 17.4% of e-waste that was collected and appropriately recycled prevented as much as 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents from being released into the environment.Call to ActionChildren and Digital Dumpsites calls for effective and binding action by exporters, importers and governments to ensure environmentally sound disposal of e-waste and the health and safety of workers, their families and communities; to monitor e-waste exposure and health outcomes; to facilitate better reuse of materials; and to encourage the manufacture of more durable electronic and electrical equipment.It also calls on the health community to take action to reduce the adverse health effects from e-waste, by building health sector capacity to diagnose, monitor and prevent toxic exposure among children and women, raising awareness of the potential co-benefits of more responsible recycling, working with affected communities and advocating for better data and health research on the health risks faced by informal e-waste workers.“Children and adolescents have the right to grow and learn in a healthy environment, and exposure to electrical and electronic waste and its many toxic components unquestionably impacts that right,” said Dr Maria Neira, Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, at the WHO. “The health sector can play a role by providing leadership and advocacy, conducting research, influencing policy-makers, engaging communities, and reaching out to other sectors to demand that health concerns be made central to e-waste policies.” Note for editors:A significant proportion of e-waste produced every year is exported from high-income countries to low- and middle-income countries, where there may be a lack of regulation, or where regulation does exist, it may be poorly enforced. Here, e-waste is dismantled, recycled and refurbished in environments where infrastructure, training and environmental and health safeguards may be non-existent or poorly adhered to. This places e-waste workers, their families and communities in greater danger of adverse health effects from e-waste recycling.The WHO Initiative on E-waste and Child Health, launched in 2013, aims to increase access to evidence, knowledge and awareness of the health impacts of e-waste; improve health sector capacity to manage and prevent risks, track progress and promote e-waste policies that better protect child health; and improve monitoring of exposure to e-waste and the facilitation of interventions that protect public health.The report was produced with the input and support of the E-Waste Coalition,a group of 10 UN agencies and international organizations, including the WHO, who have come together to increase collaboration, build partnerships and more efficiently provide support to Member States to address the e-waste challenge. 

  • The ACT Accelerator partnership welcomes commitment of 870 million vaccine doses and calls for more investment in all tools to end the pandemic
    on Jun 13 2021 at 17:22

    G7 leaders donate 870 million vaccine doses for low and low-middle income countries over the next year, vital for reducing virus transmission.G7 leaders emphasize the importance of all ACT-Accelerator tools to exit the pandemic.ACT-Accelerator’s funding gap remains significant with an urgent need for funding of tests, treatments and health systems to ensure an end to the pandemic everywhere.WHO Director General warns of increasing divide in equity to crucial COVID-19 tools.Total funding committed to the ACT-Accelerator partnership remains US$ 15.1 billion with a gap of over US$16 billion.At the close of this year’s G7 Leaders’ summit, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland announced a donation of an additional 870 million vaccine doses from attendees, with the majority to be delivered through COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID 19 Tools Accelerator, within the next year. Attendees included heads of G7 Member States plus Australia, India, South Africa and Republic of Korea, invited as guests.Leaders confirmed their support for all pillars of the ACT-Accelerator across treatments, tests and strengthening public health systems as well as vaccines (link to the communique). Additionally, they indicated their intention to work together with the private sector, the G20 and other countries to increase their vaccine contribution over the months to come. Since their G7 Early Leaders’ Summit in February 2021, the G7 has committed one billion doses in total.Timing is keyWHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, spoke to leaders at their meeting and urged “many other countries are now facing a surge in cases – and they are facing it without vaccines. We are in the race of our lives, but it’s not a fair race, and most countries have barely left the starting line. We welcome the generous announcements about donations of vaccines and thank leaders. But we need more, and we need them faster”.Over US$ 16 billion is still needed this year to fully fund the work of ACT-Accelerator, the global partnership of leading international health organizations which is mid-way through its 2020-21 funding need. In additional to vital vaccine research and development and procurement work, ACT-Accelerator needs funds to strengthen health systems and protect health workers administering the tools needed to end the pandemic; tests to detect and contain hotspots, as well as identify new variants that will continue to appear; and treatments to save the lives of those who will continue to catch COVID-19 and suffer. There is an urgent need for treatments like oxygen which is seeing a surge in demand that is 5 times – and in cases such as India, 10 times – greater than the need before the pandemic.The funding needed for the ACT-Accelerator will address challenges delivering products where they are most needed, help establish testing for 500 million people in low- and middle-income countries by mid-2021 and help secure the necessary supply of oxygen as well as distribute 165 million doses of treatments including dexamethasone which can save lives of people critically ill with COVID.Carl Bildt, WHO Special Envoy for the ACT Accelerator, said: "We welcome these commitments but there is still a significant funding gap that must be closed if we are to get the urgently needed treatments, including oxygen, and tests, to low and lower-middle income countries so we aren’t flying blind to where the virus is and how it’s changing. The time to act is now. We look to the G7 and G20 to fund the work of the ACT Accelerator, the global multilateral solution that can speed up an end to the pandemic. The world needs their political leadership because left to rage anywhere, the virus will remain a threat everywhere."“This is an important moment of global solidarity and a critical milestone in the push to ensure those most at risk, everywhere are protected,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi). “As we strive towards or goal of ending the acute phase of the pandemic, we look forward to working with countries to ensure these doses pledged are quickly turned into doses delivered.”Dr Philippe Duneton, Executive Director of UNITAID, said: "These commitments from G7 leaders are important and welcome. But it is crucial to remember that right now, COVID-19 patients around the world are dying and suffering due to a lack of oxygen, an essential medicine that is vital for the treatment of COVID-19. I would urge G7 leaders to act now to ensure that all pillars of the ACT-Accelerator are fully funded – including those focusing on treatments and tests. As recent events in India, Nepal and elsewhere have shown, we need more than vaccines to end this pandemic everywhere.”Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, said: “The impact of the pandemic in its second year is already far worse than its first. We are seeing significant and devastating outbreaks all over the world – including south Asia, southern Africa and Latin America. We must continue to sound the alarm. The longer the virus continues to spread unchecked, the higher the risk of more deadly or contagious variants emerging. The clearest pathway out of this pandemic is a global, equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, and the overall strengthening of health systems across the globe, because no one will be safe until we are all safe.”Dr Emma Hannay, Chief Access Officer and ACT-Accelerator Lead for FIND, said: “We thank the G7 for their leadership and continuing drive to ensure R&D and equitable access to diagnostic testing, necessary both for the fight against COVID-19 and to lay the foundations that will prepare the world to guard against future pandemics.”Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, said: “This is an historic moment - as leaders of some of the wealthiest counties come together to ensure that all parts of the world have access to life saving vaccines. This pandemic has shown us that we cannot set national against international interests. With a disease like COVID-19 we have to ensure that we get it under control everywhere.  There is still much to do to get vaccines in arms and ensure our research and development allows us to stay one step ahead of the virus. But for today we give pause and celebrate a watershed moment of political alignment and collaboration”.Peter Sands, Executive Director of The Global Fund, said: “It is encouraging to see such global collaboration and commitments. However, none of the lifesaving tools to fight COVID-19 will deliver themselves. We need to make sure that health systems are prepared and that front-line health workers are sufficiently protected to deliver these tools without risking their own lives. This can only happen if the ACT-Accelerator is fully funded.”Notes to EditorsThe Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is the proven, up-and-running global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. It was set up in response to a call from G20 leaders in March and launched by WHO, the European Commission, France and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020.The ACT-Accelerator is not a decision-making body or a new organization but works to speed up collaborative efforts among existing organizations to end the pandemic. It is a framework for collaboration that has been designed to bring key players around the table with the goal of ending the pandemic as quickly as possible through the accelerated development, equitable allocation, and scaled up delivery of tests, treatments and vaccines, thereby protecting health systems and restoring societies and economies in the near term. It draws on the experience of leading global health organizations which are tackling the world’s toughest health challenges, and who, by working together, are able to unlock new and more ambitious results against COVID-19. Its members share a commitment to ensure all people have access to all the tools needed to defeat COVID-19 and to work with unprecedented levels of partnership to achieve it. The ACT-Accelerator comprises four pillars: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and health system strengthening. The diagnostics pillar, co-convened by the Global Fund and FIND, is focused on ensuring equitable access to new and existing tests, supporting country uptake and deployment and strengthening the diagnostic portfolio with R&D investments in low-cost, easy-to-use and quality tests. In 2021, it is focused on procuring and distributing at least 900 million molecular and antigen rapid tests to low- and middle-income countries.The therapeutics pillar is led by Unitaid and Wellcome. Therapeutics can play a role in all stages of COVID-19 disease: to prevent infection; suppress symptoms and spread of infection to others; treat or prevent symptoms; as a life-saving treatment for severe symptoms; and as a treatment that can speed up recovery. The aim in the next 12 months is to develop, manufacture and distribute millions of treatment doses, helping COVID-19 sufferers to recover from the disease.The vaccines pillar, convened by CEPI, Gavi and WHO, is speeding up the search for an effective vaccine for all countries. At the same time, it is supporting the building of manufacturing capabilities, and buying supply, ahead of time so that at least 2 billion doses can be fairly distributed to the most high risk and highly exposed populations globally by the end of 2021.The health systems connector pillar, led by the World Bank, the Global Fund and WHO, is working to ensure that these tools can reach the people who need them.Cross-cutting all of these is the workstream on Access & Allocation, led by WHO.Since April 2020, the ACT-Accelerator has supported the fastest, most coordinated, and successful global effort in history to develop and rollout tools to fight a new disease. With significant advances in research and development by academia, private sector and government initiatives, the ACT-Accelerator has advanced our understanding of what works to fight the disease. It has transformed our ability to tackle COVID-19 on a global scale: vaccines are being rolled-out worldwide, low-cost high-performing antigen rapid diagnostic tests can now detect transmission anywhere, affordable therapies for severe disease can save lives in any setting, and health systems are being strengthened to help roll out these tools. 



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