WHO / COVID-19 UPDATE

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06-Apr-2021 00:03:30
Ahead of World Health Day, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed that COVID-19 has “exacerbated” inequalities both between and within countries and said, “While we have all undoubtedly been impacted by the pandemic, the poorest and most marginalized have been hit hardest - both in terms of lives and livelihoods lost.” WHO

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STORY: WHO / COVID-19 UPDATE
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SOURCE: WHO
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DATELINE: 06 APRIL 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

SHOTLIST:

FILE – GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

1. Wide shot, WHO emblem outside headquarters

06 APRIL 2021, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

2. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
“Tomorrow is World Health Day. COVID-19 has exacerbated inequalities both between and within countries. While we have all undoubtedly been impacted by the pandemic, the poorest and most marginalized have been hit hardest - both in terms of lives and livelihoods lost.”
4. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
"This week will mark the hundredth day and 190 countries and economies have now started vaccination. COVAX itself has already delivered 36 million doses to 86 countries and economies. Supply chains are up and running and health systems primed. Scaling up production and equitable distribution remains the major barrier to ending the acute stage of this pandemic. It’s a travesty that in some countries health workers and those at-risk groups remain completely unvaccinated."
6. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization (WHO):
"Equitably sharing of rapid tests, therapeutics, oxygen and vaccines are key to ending the acute phase of the pandemic. That means tech transfer, sharing know how and waiving intellectual property rights."
8. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO):
"Vaccination is one element of the response strategy. And as Mariângela (Simão) has said, as you have heard us say repeatedly over and over again, we are accused often of being a broken record and we will be happy to continue to be this broken record until this pandemic is over. But there are a number of elements, interventions that can be used that drive down transmission. Globally, we have passed the sixth week in a row where we have seen a consecutive increase in cases around the world. Last week, there were four million new cases reported to WHO and that is likely an underestimate of the true infections that have been occurring globally."
10. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
11. SOUNDBITE (English) Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 Technical lead, Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO):
"So, we cannot rely all on vaccines and vaccinations. We have to continue to put in the individual level measures. We need communities that are supported. If there is a stay at home measure in place, we need governments to support individuals to be at home. All of this still matters. So we will continue to be this broken record and remind the world that there is a strategy out there about suppressing transmission."
12. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference
13. SOUDNDBITE (English) Dr Rogerio Pinto de Sá Gaspar, Director, Regulation and Prequalification, World Health Organization (WHO):
"What we can say is that the appraisal that we have for the moment and this is under consideration by the experts, is that the benefit risk assessment for the [AstaZeneca] vaccine is still largely positive. We continue to see a number of events that are rare events linking thrombocytopenia to thrombolytic events. And those rare events are now being categorized in terms of the diagnostics, in terms of the population, in terms of the distribution within the population. And the expert committees will come to decisions in coming hours and coming days about what will be the regulatory status for the vaccine."
14. Wide shot, WHO officials at press conference

STORYLINE:

Ahead of World Health Day, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed that COVID-19 has “exacerbated” inequalities both between and within countries and said, “While we have all undoubtedly been impacted by the pandemic, the poorest and most marginalized have been hit hardest - both in terms of lives and livelihoods lost.”

For World Health Day, marked on Wednesday (07 Apr), WHO is therefore issuing five calls for urgent action to improve health for all people.

WHO said within countries, illness and death from COVID-19 have been higher among groups who face discrimination, poverty, social exclusion, and adverse daily living and working conditions - including humanitarian crises. The pandemic is estimated to have driven between 119 and 124 million more people into extreme poverty last year. And there is convincing evidence that it has widened gender gaps in employment, with women exiting the labour force in greater numbers than men over the past 12 months, WHO said.

WHO said as countries continue to fight the pandemic, a unique opportunity emerges to build back better for a fairer, healthier world by implementing existing commitments, resolutions, and agreements while also making new and bold commitments.

The first among WHO’s recommendations is to accelerate equitable access to COVID-19 technologies between and within countries.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva today (06 Apr), Dr Tedros said, "This week will mark the hundredth day and 190 countries and economies have now started vaccination. COVAX itself has already delivered 36 million doses to 86 countries and economies. Supply chains are up and running and health systems primed. Scaling up production and equitable distribution remains the major barrier to ending the acute stage of this pandemic. It’s a travesty that in some countries health workers and those at-risk groups remain completely unvaccinated."


But vaccines alone will not overcome COVID-19, WHO said. Commodities such as medical oxygen and personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as reliable diagnostic tests and medicines are also vital. So are strong mechanisms to fairly distribute all these products within national borders.

Dr Tedros said, "Equitably sharing of rapid tests, therapeutics, oxygen and vaccines are key to ending the acute phase of the pandemic. That means tech transfer, sharing know how and waiving intellectual property rights."

WHO noted that the ACT-Accelerator aims to establish testing and treatments for hundreds of millions of people in low and middle-income countries who would otherwise miss out, but it still requires USD 22.1 billion to deliver these vital tools where they are so desperately needed.

The second recommendation is to invest in primary health care. WHO said at least half of the world’s population still lacks access to essential health services; more than 800 million people spend at least 10 per cent of their household income on health care, and out of pocket expenses drive almost 100 million people into poverty each year.

As countries move forward post-COVID-19, it will be vital to avoid cuts in public spending on health and other social sectors, the World Health Organization added. Such cuts are likely to increase hardship among already disadvantaged groups, weaken health system performance, increase health risks, add to fiscal pressure in the future and undermine development gains.

Instead, governments should meet WHO’s recommended target of spending an additional one per cent of GDP on primary health care (PHC). According to the Organization, evidence reveals that PHC-oriented health systems have consistently produced better health outcomes, enhanced equity, and improved efficiency. Scaling up PHC interventions across low- and middle-income countries could save 60 million lives and increase average life expectancy by 3.7 years by 2030.

Third, WHO said countries must prioritize health and social protection. In many countries, the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, through loss of jobs, increases in poverty, disruptions to education, and threats to nutrition, have exceeded the public health impact of the virus. Some countries have already put in place expanded social protection schemes to mitigate these negative impacts of wider social hardship and started a dialogue on how to continue providing support to the communities and people in the future. But many face challenges in finding the resources for concrete action. WHO stressed that it will be vital to ensure that these precious investments have the biggest impact on those in greatest need, and that disadvantaged communities are engaged in planning and implementing programmes.

WHO also recommended building safe, healthy and inclusive neighbourhoods. The Organization said city leaders have often been powerful champions for improving health - for example, by improving transport systems and water and sanitation facilities. But too often, the lack of basic social services for some communities traps them in a spiral of sickness and insecurity. WHO said access to healthy housing, in safe neighbourhoods, with adequate educational and recreational amenities, is key to achieving health for all.

Meanwhile, 80 per cent of the world's population living in extreme poverty are in rural areas. Today, eight out of 10 people who lack basic drinking water services live in rural areas, as do seven out of 10 people who lack basic sanitation services. WHO underscored the importance of intensifying efforts to reach rural communities with health and other basic social services (including water and sanitation). These communities also urgently need increased economic investment in sustainable livelihoods and better access to digital technologies.

Finally, WHO recommended strengthening data and health information systems. The Organization argued that increasing the availability of timely, high-quality data that is disaggregated by sex, wealth, education, ethnicity, race, gender and place of residence is key to working out where inequities exist and addressing them. Health inequality monitoring should be an integral part of all national health information systems, WHO said.

A recent WHO global assessment shows that only 51 per cent of countries have included data disaggregation in their published national health statistics reports. The health status of these diverse groups is often masked when national averages are used. WHO said it is often those who are made vulnerable, poor or discriminated against, who are the most likely to be missing from the data entirely.
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