Dec. 14, 2020

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 14 December 2020

14 December 2020

 
  • Health workers account for an estimated 3% of the world’s population, but account for 14% of all infections with COVID-19. 
  • New data from WHO and UNICEF show that one in four health facilities globally lack basic water services. This puts health workers and patients at risk from infections of all kinds, makes childbirth much less safe, and drives antimicrobial resistance. 
  • While the direct health impacts of the pandemic on young people have been generally less severe, youth are disproportionately affected by the long-lasting consequences of the pandemic.  
  • Today we’re delighted to be taking part in the launch of the Global Youth Mobilization for Generation Disrupted, a new worldwide movement to support young people and involve them in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

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Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

The pandemic has reminded all of us of the heroic work that health workers do every single day.

Health workers account for an estimated 3% of the world’s population, but account for 14% of all infections with COVID-19.

One of WHO’s primary concerns has been to ensure health workers have access to personal protective equipment.

We also advise that health workers should clean their hands regularly with an alcohol-based hand rub, or wash with soap and water.

And yet new data from WHO and UNICEF show that one in four health facilities globally lack basic water services.

In the world’s 47 least-developed countries, half of all health facilities have no clean water on site.

This puts health workers and patients at risk from infections of all kinds, makes childbirth much less safe, and drives antimicrobial resistance.

Addressing this gap is an urgent priority for WHO and UNICEF, and must be for the rest of the world.

Preliminary estimates show that making sure all healthcare facilities in the 47 least-developed countries have basic water, sanitation, hygiene, waste management and cleaning services will cost an additional 3.6 billion US dollars between 2021 and 2030.

And we know that for every dollar invested in hand hygiene alone, there is a return of US$15.

In other words, investing in water, sanitation and hygiene is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

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While the direct health impacts of the pandemic on young people have been generally less severe, youth are disproportionately affected by the long-lasting consequences of the pandemic: disruptions to education, economic uncertainty, loss or lack of employment opportunities, impacts on physical and mental health, and trauma from domestic violence to name a few.

More than 1 billion students in almost every country have been impacted by school closures; and 1 in 6 young people worldwide have lost their jobs during the pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, WHO has been working with young people and many partners including UNICEF and UNESCO in several ways.

We have supported and amplified youth-led initiatives on combatting misinformation and mental health;

We have engaged young people in co-creating communications materials for young people about reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission;

We supported the youth-led COVID Youth Survey to assess attitudes and awareness of young people about COVID-19;

And we will soon be publishing the results of a global survey about how young people look for and use COVID-19 information online.

Two weeks ago we launched the WHO Youth Council, to provide advice on key health and development issues affecting young people.

Today we’re delighted to be taking part in the launch of the Global Youth Mobilization for Generation Disrupted, a new worldwide movement to support young people and involve them in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This new initiative is being led by what is known as the “Big 6” Youth Organizations:

The World Organization of the Scout Movement;

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts;

The Young Men’s Christian Association;

The World Young Women’s Christian Association;

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies;

And the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.

Together, these organizations and networks actively involve more than 250 million young people.

Through the new Global Youth Mobilization, the Big 6 youth organizations, WHO and the UN Foundation will engage young people around the world in the design of community initiatives to turn around the impact of the pandemic.

And we hope that it will become a platform for supporting progress towards other health goals, including universal health coverage. The voice of the youth for health for all is very crucial.

In early 2021, the movement will issue a call for proposals, inviting youth groups around the world to develop youth-led solutions to COVID-19 and an accelerator programme to scale up existing response efforts.

US$5 million has been allocated to this initiative from the WHO COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, powered by the UN Foundation.

The Global Youth Mobilization will also feature the convening of a Global Youth Summit in April 2021.

Today I’m delighted to be joined by four representatives from the movement’s project board:

Ahmad Alhendawi, Secretary General of the World Organization of the Scout Movement;

Tharindra Arumapperuma, an Emerging Leader and International Council Member of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award;

Michelle Shi Jie Chew, Youth Commission Member of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; 

And Casey Harden, General Secretary of the World Young Women’s Christian Association.

Mr Alhendawi, before I give you the floor, I understand that today marks the 100th anniversary of the World Scout Bureau, so I would like to wish you a very happy birthday, and congratulate you for the huge impact you have had on young people over the past 100 years.

Thank you, and you have the floor.

[MR ALHENDAWI MADE BRIEF REMARKS]

Thank you so much indeed, and I fully agree that this is not just about the Big 6, but involving all youth groups. So thank you, Mr Alhendawi.

Ms Arumapperuma, thank you for joining us today, and thank you for everything that the Duke of Edinburgh scheme does to engage and empower young people. You have the floor.

[MS ARUMAPPERUMA MADE BRIEF REMARKS]

Thank you so much indeed, and my greetings to Sri Lanka.

Ms Chew, thank you for joining us today and thank you to all young people who work with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies all over the world. You have the floor.

[MS CHEW MAKES BRIEF REMARKS]

Thank you, Michelle, I fully agree, and we hope the Global Youth Mobilization will bring true progress.

Ms Harden, thank you to you and the more than 130 000 volunteers who work with the YWCA movement all over the world. You have the floor.

[MS HARDEN MAKES BRIEF REMARKS]

Thank you to all our guests today, and we look forward to working with you in the coming months to engage young people all over the world in the response to COVID-19, and to building a healthier, safer and fairer world.

Fadela, back to you.

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[DR TEDROS MADE THE FOLLOWING REMARKS AT THE END OF THE BRIEFING]

In the last few minutes Canada has announced a significant funding commitment to the Access to the COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.

I would like to thank Canada and Prime Minister Trudeau for the solidarity and generosity expressed to help the COVAX Facility succeed. So thank you so much, Canada.

The ACT Accelerator is truly the best global solution to fight the acute phase of the pandemic, save lives, and drive the global recovery.

Finally, today marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Refugees are among the most vulnerable people in our world.

Today we are seeing the largest population movements and displacement since the end of the Second World War.

Many refugees and migrants live highly insecure lives on the fringes of society, often in fear and often without access to essential health and other services.

To change this situation, it’s vital that all countries include refugees and migrants in national health plans as part of their commitment to universal health coverage.

Happy birthday, UNHCR. WHO is proud to work with you to improve the health and well-being of all refugees.

Thank you, and congratulations to my brother Filippo Grandi.

Thank you, and see you on Friday.