In a press conference from Geneva Dr Tedros and his team at the WHO talked about several topics with Uganda being the first. Uganda has ended the Ebola outbreak in just 4 months the achievement was accomplished by you the standard methods of contact tracing and medical follow-ups to control the spread of the virus. The WHO team also talk about humanitarian efforts in Syria. As we know the cross-border efforts from Turkey to Syria were just approved by the UN Security Council thus giving the WHO and their medical team a renewed license to help the Syrian people. Dr Tedros made the following opening statement.
Today marks the end of the Ebola outbreak in Uganda, four months after the first cases were reported.
I congratulate the government, the people of Uganda and health workers, some of whom lost their lives, for their leadership and dedication in bringing this outbreak to an end.
And we thank donors and partners for swiftly mobilizing resources, and vaccine developers for making candidate vaccines available in record time.
Even in the absence of approved vaccines or therapeutics for this type of Ebola, Uganda was able to use proven public health tools to contain the outbreak.
This outbreak has finished, but WHO’s commitment to Uganda has not.
We remain committed to strengthening Uganda’s health system as part of its journey towards universal health coverage.
Now to COVID-19.
It’s now three years since the first sequence of SARS-CoV-2 was shared with the world.
That sequence enabled the development of the first tests, and ultimately, vaccines.
Throughout the pandemic, testing and sequencing helped us to track the spread and development of new variants.
But since the peak of the Omicron wave, the number of sequences being shared has dropped by more than 90%, and the number of countries sharing sequences has fallen by a third.
It’s understandable that countries cannot maintain the same levels of testing and sequencing they had during the Omicron peak.
At the same time, the world cannot close its eyes and hope this virus will go away. It won’t.
Sequencing remains vital to detect and track the emergence and spread of new variants, such as XBB.1.5.
We urge all countries now experiencing intense transmission to increase sequencing, and to share those sequences.
Investment in testing at-risk people to ensure they receive adequate care and in tracking the virus remains vital.
There is no doubt that globally we are in a vastly better position than we were a year ago.
Since February last year, the number of deaths reported to WHO each week has dropped by almost 90%.
But since mid-September, the number of weekly reported deaths has been stuck between 10 and 14 thousand deaths per week.
The world cannot accept this number of deaths when we have the tools to prevent them.
Last week, almost 11 500 deaths were reported to WHO – about 40% from the Americas, 30% from Europe and 30% from the Western Pacific region.
However, this number is almost certainly an underestimate given the under-reporting of COVID-related deaths in China.
Most of those dying are at-risk groups, including older people.
During the last six months of last year, people aged 65 or over accounted for almost 90% of all reported deaths.
But once again, the data we receive from countries is inadequate to give us a clear picture of who is dying, and why.
Only 53 out of 194 countries provide data on deaths that are disaggregated by age and sex.
As we enter the fourth year of this pandemic, we ask all countries to provide this data. The more data we have, the clearer a picture we have.
We continue to call on all countries to focus on fully vaccinating the most at-risk groups, especially older people.
And we continue to call on all people to take appropriate precautions when necessary to protect yourself and others.
You may not die with this disease, but you could give it to someone else who does.
Now to Syria.
This week, the United Nations Security Council extended the authorisation for cross-border humanitarian operations for an additional six months.
For WHO and partners, this is welcome news, and critical for us to reach more than 4 million people in north-west Syria with lifesaving health and humanitarian support.
This decision comes at a time when the humanitarian situation is worsening in Syria.
Humanitarian needs have reached their highest levels since the conflict began.
Syria is now facing a harsh winter and a cholera outbreak that has already affected tens of thousands.
WHO will continue to work with partners to deliver aid, but the solution that the people of Syria need more than any other is peace.
Syria is not the only country facing a devastating cholera outbreak.
Since January of last year, 31 countries have reported outbreaks, 50 percent more than in the preceding years.
The outbreaks themselves are both more widespread and deadly than normal.
While we have had large cholera outbreaks before, we have not seen such a large number of simultaneous outbreaks.
The common denominator for many of these outbreaks is climate-related events, such as storms, floods and droughts.
Haiti, Malawi and Syria are among the worst-affected countries.
In October, the International Coordinating Group that manages the global cholera vaccine stockpile suspended the standard two-dose vaccination regimen for cholera, using instead a single-dose approach to extend supply.
Production is currently at maximum capacity, and despite this unprecedented decision, the stockpile remains very low.
In the past few weeks, four more countries requested vaccines, which are extremely scarce.
With increasing numbers of outbreaks that are larger geographically and in number, we call on countries that have experienced cholera outbreaks before to increase preparedness for potential outbreaks.
We thank EuBiologics, based in the Republic of Korea, for maximizing production, and for its efforts to develop a new vaccine with the potential for larger production.
We continue to call on other manufacturers to do the same.
We also call on partners to support the response to the ongoing outbreaks, especially to reduce the unacceptably high case fatality rate.
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