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Global health recorded achievements in spite of COVID-19 – WHO

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) says global health recorded achievements in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is according to a WHO 2020 to 2021 Results Report released on Tuesday in Geneva ahead of the World Health Assembly scheduled to hold from May 22 to May 26.

The report detailed many accomplishments which include the delivery of more than 1.4 billion vaccine doses via the COVAX facility, the recommendation for broad use of the world’s first malaria vaccine and WHO’s response to some 87 health emergencies, including COVID-19.

The WHO said that during  from 2020 to 2021, it led the largest-ever global response to a health crisis, working with 1600 technical and operational partners.

It said that the organization helped galvanise the biggest, fastest and most complex vaccination drive in history and also spent 1.7 billion dollars on essential supplies to the COVID-19 response.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said that WHO responded to the most severe global health crisis in a century.

He added that WHO has also continued to support all the Member States in addressing many other threats to health, in spite of squeezed budgets and disrupted services.

“As the world continues to respond to and recover from the pandemic in the years ahead, WHO’s priority is to invest even more resources for our work in countries, where it matters most.

“Ensuring WHO has sustainable, predictable and flexible financing is essential for fulfilling our mission to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable”, he said.

Ghebreyesus said that the ACT-A partnership delivered more than one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses by January 2022.

According to him, the global rollout of crucial health materials included nearly 500 million dollars’ worth of personal protective equipment; 187 million dollars in oxygen supplies, 4.8 million dollars in treatments and 110 million diagnostic tests.

He said however, much remains to be done for the world to get on track for WHO’s target of each country vaccinating 70 per cent of its population by July 2022.

The results report revealed noteworthy achievements beyond the pandemic.

Mandatory policies prohibiting the use of trans fatty acids (a hazardous food compound linked to cardiovascular disease), are in effect for 3.2 billion people in 58 countries.

The world health body said among these countries, 40 have best practice policies, including  Brazil, Peru, Singapore, Turkey and the UK.

“WHO’s REPLACE initiative aims for a world free of trans-fats by the end of 2023.

“Thanks to implementation of measures mandated by WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, tobacco use is  decreasing in 150 countries saving lives and livelihoods.

“Due to efforts to scale up life-saving interventions guided by WHO  guidelines, 15 countries have achieved elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and/or syphilis.

“And WHO’s recommendation of widespread use of the world’s first malaria vaccine (RTS,S) has been delivered to over 1 million children.

“ It is expected to save 40 000 to 80 000 lives a year, when used with other malaria control interventions,’’ it said.

The report demonstrates WHO’s crucial role as the world’s global health guardian, speaking up for health equity in a world of widening inequalities.

It said that the grave costs of the pandemic were felt everywhere.

The report portrayed a world which is clearly further off track to reach crucial global health goals.

“Due to myriad disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have fallen behind on WHO’s “Triple Billion targets” that provide critical pathways to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030,’’ it said.

It said that progress on Universal Health Coverage and healthier populations are at about one quarter or less the pace needed to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

According to it, no country was fully prepared for a pandemic of such scale.

It said that COVID-19 also caused huge disruptions to health services.

It said that 117 of 127 countries surveyed reported disruption to at least one essential health service because of COVID, whilst the average disruption across those countries was a staggering 45 per cent.

It said going forward, fulfilling the triple billion targets will be WHO’s overriding goal, as a measurable means of reducing health equity gaps.

The Results Report details WHO’s efforts towards transparency and accountability, providing details of expenditure.

The WHO Programme Budget for 2020-2021 was 5 840.4 million dollars.

` In fact, financing reached 7 916 million dollars, due to COVID-19 emergency operations.

“The surplus was thanks to the generosity of donors, including 12 Member States which contributed approximately 71 per cent of the total financing,’’ it said.

It said that the largest share of WHO financing was earmarked by donors through specified voluntary contributions.

Flexible funds constituted only 20 per cent of total financing in 2020-2021,’’ it said.

According to it, if WHO is to play its full role in achieving the SDGs, delivering on universal health coverage, reducing the burden of ill health and protecting 1 billion more people from health emergencies.

It said that the share of regular, stable, predictable financing must increase.

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