Sep. 7, 2022

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing– 7 September 2022

Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening.

First, to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The global decline in reported cases and deaths is continuing.

This is very encouraging. But there is no guarantee these trends will persist. The most dangerous thing is to assume they will.

The number of weekly reported deaths may have dropped by more than 80% since February, but even so, last week one person died with COVID-19 every 44 seconds.

Most of those deaths are avoidable.

You might be tired of hearing me say the pandemic is not over. But I will keep saying it until it is. This virus will not just fade away.

We understand that many governments are dealing with multiple challenges and competing priorities.

To support them, WHO will next week publish a set of six short policy briefs, outlining the essential actions that all governments can take to reduce transmission and save lives.

The briefs will cover the essential elements of testing, clinical management, vaccination, infection prevention and control, risk communication and community engagement, and managing the infodemic.

We hope countries will use these briefs to reassess and readjust their policies to protect those most at risk, treat those who need it and save lives.

The pandemic is always evolving, and so must the response, in every country.

Even as we continue to respond to the pandemic, work is progressing to put in place the measures to keep the world safer from future epidemics and pandemics.

In November last year, WHO’s Member States made a historic decision to negotiate a new international accord on pandemic preparedness and response.

Just as countries have come together before to agree treaties on the threats posed by tobacco, nuclear weapons and climate change, so now countries are coming together to agree on a common approach to the common threat of epidemics and pandemics.

The final outcome will be a legal instrument negotiated by sovereign states and implemented by sovereign states, in accordance with their own laws.

But this is not a discussion for governments alone.

Pandemics threaten every single person on earth, so it’s important that everyone can have their say on what this landmark international agreement looks like.

To enable that to happen, WHO is holding public hearings, to give as many people as people as possible the opportunity to have input into the negotiating process.

The first round of public hearings was in April, and the second round will be held later this month.

We invite everyone, everywhere to have their say, by submitting a video statement between the 9th and 13th of September, responding to this question:

“Based on your experience with the COVID-19 pandemic, what do you believe should be addressed at the international level to better protect against future pandemics?”

We look forward to receiving many suggestions and ideas, from as many countries as possible.

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Now to monkeypox, where we are continuing to see a downward trend in Europe.

While reported cases from the Americas also declined last week, it’s harder to draw firm conclusions about the epidemic in that region.

Some countries in the Americas continue to report increasing numbers of cases, and in some there is likely to be under-reporting due to stigma and discrimination, or a lack of information for those who need it most.

But as I said earlier, a downward trend can be the most dangerous time, if it opens the door to complacency.

WHO continues to recommend that all countries persist with a tailored combination of public health measures, testing, research and targeted vaccination, where vaccines are available.

Community engagement is vital. Last week, WHO held a consultation with community leaders from all over the world to listen to their views and concerns, and to emphasize the importance of responding to monkeypox using existing services and infrastructure, including those for HIV and sexual health.

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Now to Pakistan, where almost 1500 health facilities have been affected by flooding.

There are limited stocks of emergency medicines and other health supplies.

WHO has delivered medicines, water purification kits, tents and other supplies, and together with our partners we have set up more than 4500 medical camps to provide essential health services.

The challenge is huge.

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Finally, we remain deeply concerned about the situation in the Sahel and the Greater Horn of Africa, and particularly in Somalia.

Parts of Somalia are projected to fall into famine in the very near future unless there is an urgent scale-up in humanitarian assistance.

Millions more people in other parts of the country are facing extreme hunger, and it is likely that many people have already starved to death.

A rapid scale-up in humanitarian assistance since early this year has saved many lives.

But the resources that WHO and our partners have to respond to the crisis are outstripped by the explosion in needs.

Somalia and its neighbours in the Greater Horn of Africa – as well as the countries of the Sahel region – need the world’s help, and they need it now.