31 August 2022
Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening.
First to Pakistan, where weeks of heavy monsoon rains have caused extensive flooding and landslides, resulting in death, displacement and damage.
More than 1000 deaths have been reported, and almost 900 health facilities have been damaged.
Three-quarters of Pakistan’s districts and 33 million people have been affected, with more than 6 million in dire need of humanitarian aid.
Damage to health infrastructure, shortages of health workers, and limited health supplies are disrupting health services, leaving children and pregnant and lactating women at increased risk.
Pakistan was already facing health threats including COVID-19, cholera, typhoid, measles, leishmaniasis, HIV and polio.
Now, the flooding has led to new outbreaks of diarrheal diseases, skin infections, respiratory tract infections, malaria, dengue, and more.
In addition, the loss of crops and livestock will have a significant impact on the nutrition and health of many communities who depend on these resources.
And more rain is expected.
Under our internal grading system, WHO has classified the flooding in Pakistan as a grade 3 emergency, the highest level, which means all three levels of the organization are involved in the response: the country and regional offices, and headquarters.
We are releasing US$ 10 million from the WHO Contingency Fund for Emergencies, which is supporting our work to treat the injured, deliver supplies to health facilities, and prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
Floods in Pakistan, drought and famine in the Greater Horn of Africa, and more frequent and intense cyclones in the Pacific and Caribbean all point to the urgent need for action against the existential threat of climate change.
Now to COVID-19, where we are now seeing a welcome decline in reported deaths globally.
However, with colder weather approaching in the northern hemisphere, it’s reasonable to expect an increase in hospitalizations and deaths in the coming months.
Subvariants of Omicron are more transmissible than their predecessors, and the risk of even more transmissible and more dangerous variants remains.
Meanwhile, vaccination coverage among the most at-risk people remains too low, especially in low-income countries.
But even in high-income countries, 30% of health workers and 20% of older people remain unvaccinated.
These vaccination gaps pose a risk to all of us.
So, please get vaccinated if you are not, and get a booster if it’s recommended that you have one.
Even if you are vaccinated, there are simple things you can do to reduce your own risk of infection, and to reduce the risk of infecting someone else.
Avoid crowds if you can, especially indoors;
If you are in a crowded indoor space, wear a mask and open a window
And continue to clean your hands, which will help to protect you and others from all kinds of viruses and bacteria.
Living with COVID-19 doesn’t mean pretending the pandemic is over.
If you go walking in the rain without an umbrella, pretending it’s not raining won’t help you. You’ll still get wet.
Likewise, pretending a deadly virus is not circulating is a huge risk.
Living with COVID-19 means taking the simple precautions to avoid getting infected, or if you are infected, from getting seriously sick or dying.
Once again, I am asking all governments to update their policies to make best use of the life-saving tools that exist to manage COVID-19 responsibly.
Finally, to monkeypox.
In the Americas, which accounts for more than half of reported cases, several countries continue to see increasing numbers of infections, although it is encouraging to see a sustained downward trend in Canada.
Some European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, are also seeing a clear slowing of the outbreak, demonstrating the effectiveness of public health interventions and community engagement to track infections and prevent transmission.
These signs confirm what we have said consistently since the beginning: that with the right measures, this is an outbreak that can be stopped.
And in regions that do not have animal-to-human transmission, this is a virus that can be eliminated.
But it won’t just happen. Eliminating monkeypox needs three things: the evidence that it’s possible, which we are now beginning to see; political will and commitment; and the implementation of public health measures in the communities that need them most.
We might be “living with COVID-19” for the foreseeable future. But we don’t have to live with monkeypox.
WHO will continue to support all countries to stop this outbreak and eliminate this virus.