- COVID-19 has brought to light inspiring acts of compassion: WHO
- WHO says that vaccines must be shared equally as global public goods
- Public health, especially at primary level, needs to be strengthened: WHO
United Nations: The UN health chief declared Friday (December 4) that positive results from coronavirus vaccine trials mean the world “can begin to dream about the end of the pandemic,” but he said rich and powerful nations must not trample the poor and marginalised “in the stampede for vaccines.” In an address to the UN General Assembly’s first high-level session on the pandemic, World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautioned that while the virus can be stopped, “the path ahead remains treacherous.”
The pandemic has shown humanity at “its best and worst,” he said, pointing to “inspiring acts of compassion and self-sacrifice, breathtaking feats of science and innovation, and heartwarming demonstrations of solidarity, but also disturbing signs of self-interest, blame-shifting and divisions.” Referring to the current upsurge in infections and deaths, Tedros said without naming any countries that
where science is drowned out by conspiracy theories, where solidarity is undermined by division, where sacrifice is substituted with self interest, the virus thrives, the virus spreads.
He warned in a virtual address to the high-level meeting that a vaccine “will not address the vulnerabilities that lie at its root” — poverty, hunger, inequality and climate change, which he said must be tackled once the pandemic ends.
We cannot and we must not go back to the same exploitative patterns of production and consumption, the same disregard for the planet that sustains all life, the same cycle of panic and meddling and the same divisive politics that fueled this pandemic. The light at the end of the tunnel is growing steadily brighter,” but vaccines “must be shared equally as global public goods, not as private commodities that widen inequalities and become yet another reason some people are left behind, he said.
He said WHO’s ACT-Accelerator program to quickly develop and distribute vaccines fairly “is in danger of becoming no more than a noble gesture” without major new funding. He said $4.3 billion is needed immediately to lay the groundwork for mass procurement and delivery of vaccines and a further $23.9 billion is required for 2021.
That total, Mr. Tedros said, is less than one-half of 1 per cent of the $11 trillion in stimulus packages announced so far by the Group of 20, the world’s richest countries. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a similar appeal for funding for the ACT-Accelerator at Thursday’s opening of the two-day General Assembly session. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday that Guterres is frustrated and would have liked see “a much much higher rate of investment by those countries who can.”
Despite years of warnings, Mr. Tedros said, many countries were unprepared for the pandemic and assumed their health systems would protect their people. Many countries that have done best dealing with the crisis had experience responding to the outbreaks of SARS, MERS, HINI and other infectious diseases, he said. WHO has been sharply criticized for not taking a stronger and more vocal role in handling the pandemic. Tedros told the meeting that “clearly, the global system for preparedness needs attention.”
He said a WHO commission established in September is reviewing international health regulations. WHO is also working with several countries on developing a pilot program in which countries agree to regular and transparent reviews of their health preparedness, he said.
The pandemic also showed the need for a global system to share samples of viruses and other pathogens that cause disease to facilitate development of “medical counter-measures as global public goods” he said, welcoming Switzerland’s offer to use a high-security laboratory to manage a new biobank. Mr. Tedros also backed European Union chief Charles Michel’s proposal for an international treaty under which WHO would monitor the risks of emerging infectious diseases in animals for transmission to humans, ensure alerts of health risks, improve access to health care, and address financing needs.
He said this would provide “the political underpinning” for strengthening the global health sector. The world spends $7.5 trillion on health every year, almost 10% of global GDP, Mr. Tedros said, but most of that money is spent in rich countries on treating disease rather than on “promoting and protecting health.” “We need a radical rethink on the way we view and value health,” he said. “If the world is to avoid another crisis on this scale,” Mr. Tedros said, “investments in basic public health functions, especially primary health care, are essential, and all roads should lead to universal health coverage with a strong foundation of primary health care.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.