WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the COVID-19 media briefing– 14 June 2022 – World – ReliefWeb


World
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening,
Today is World Blood Donor Day.
Blood donations are a lifeline in emergencies, disasters, humanitarian crises, and for people who need regular transfusions.
And yet around the world, many communities do not have access to safe blood. Women and children are the most at risk.
So please, give blood if you can, and give regularly.
And to the millions of blood donors around the world – thank you. You are literally lifesavers. Thank you so much.
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A few hours ago, WHO published a new technical brief on Parkinson’s disease.
Globally, disability and death due to Parkinson’s disease are increasing faster than for any other neurological disorder.
The prevalence of Parkinson’s has doubled in the past 25 years.
And yet around the world, the resources needed to manage the disease are lacking, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
Our new brief outlines the global burden and treatment gaps, and provides considerations for policies, implementation and research, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
It outlines key actions for policymakers and health-care providers to prevent and treat Parkinson’s, raise awareness, and support people with the disease and their carers.
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The global decline in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths is continuing.
Reported cases and deaths have now both fallen more than 90% from their peaks earlier this year.
This is a very welcome trend.
Still, more than 3 million cases were reported to WHO last week – and because many countries have reduced surveillance and testing, we know this number is under-reported.
And 8737 deaths were reported – 8737 deaths too many.
We cannot allow ourselves to become numb to these numbers.
There is no acceptable level of deaths from COVID-19, when we have the tools to prevent, detect and treat this disease.
Many of us who live in high-income countries have easy access to these tools. We now take them for granted.
But for many people around the world, these tools remain scarce commodities.
It’s now more than two years since WHO and our partners launched the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP.
C-TAP was proposed by former President Carlos Alvarado Quesada of Costa Rica, to promote voluntary mechanisms to share intellectual property, know-how, and data.
The licenses C-TAP has received, for tests, vaccines and therapeutics, are making a real difference, and show that this innovative mechanism can work.
However, the licenses we have received are too few, and only from government research institutes. Manufacturers have not contributed to a single license.
This highlights why the world needs a more effective mechanism for sharing licenses in an emergency, and why governments that fund so much research must retain licensing rights for products that are needed in emergency situations.
WHO is aware that countries are discussing a temporary waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 tools at the World Trade Organization’s Ministerial Conference this week.
As I have said many times, the TRIPS waiver was created for use in emergencies. So if not now, then when? I hope countries will come to an agreement on a waiver not just for vaccines, but for diagnostics and therapeutics as well.
As you know, last week the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens, or SAGO, published its first report.
Understanding the origins of SARS-CoV-2 is very important for preventing future epidemics and pandemics.
All hypotheses must remain on the table until we have evidence that enables us to rule certain hypotheses in or out.
We continue to call on China to collaborate with this process and carry out the studies that SAGO has recommended.
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Now to the Horn of Africa, where the worst drought in 40 years has pushed over 30 million people in eight countries into acute food insecurity: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda.
Many families have left their homes in search of food, water and pasture.
The implications for health are severe.
Malnourishment can have a life-long impact on health, and makes people increasingly vulnerable to disease.
Severely malnourished children are nine times more likely to die of diseases such as cholera and measles.
WHO has now graded this crisis as a grade 3 emergency, the highest level in our internal system.
A grade 3 emergency means that we are coordinating the response across all three levels of the organization – country offices, regional offices and headquarters.
Our priorities are supporting countries to fight outbreaks, and to make sure people have access to the essential health services they need.
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Finally, to monkeypox.
So far this year, more than 1,600 confirmed cases and almost 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported to WHO from 39 countries – including seven countries where monkeypox has been detected for years, and 32 newly-affected countries.
So far this year, 72 deaths have been reported from previously-affected countries. No deaths have been reported so far from the newly-affected countries, although WHO is seeking to verify news reports from Brazil of a monkeypox-related death there.
WHO’s goal is to support countries to contain transmission and stop the outbreak with tried-and-tested public health tools including surveillance, contact-tracing and isolation of infected patients.
It’s also essential to increase awareness of risks and actions to reduce onward transmission for the most at-risk groups, including men who have sex with men and their close contacts.
Today, we have also published interim guidance on the use of smallpox vaccines for monkeypox.
WHO does not recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox.
While smallpox vaccines are expected to provide some protection against monkeypox, there is limited clinical data, and limited supply.
Any decision about whether to use vaccines should be made jointly by individuals who may be at risk and their health care provider, based on an assessment of risks and benefits, on a case-by-case basis.
It’s also essential that vaccines are available equitably wherever needed.
To that end, WHO is working closely with our Member States and partners to develop a mechanism for fair access to vaccines and treatments.
WHO is also working with partners and experts from around the world on changing the name of monkeypox virus, its clades and the disease it causes.
We will make announcements about the new names as soon as possible.
The global outbreak of monkeypox is clearly unusual and concerning.
It’s for that reason that I have decided to convene the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations next week, to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.
Christian, back to you.
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