A Statement From Dr. Tedros of the WHO
Two weeks ago, I issued standing recommendations for countries on the long-term management of COVID-19.
I said then that COVID remains a global health threat.
Although data available to WHO continues to decline, we have seen increasing reports of hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths in some countries.
We continue to call on all countries to strengthen surveillance, sequencing and reporting so we can assess the risk of new variants such as EG.5 and BA.2.86.
And we continue to call on all countries to implement the standing recommendations to save lives and prevent the burden of long COVID.
Just over a year ago, I declared a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of what was then called monkeypox, and is now known as mpox.
So far, more than 90 thousand cases and 156 deaths have been reported to WHO, from 114 countries. However, we know the true number of cases and deaths is higher, due to under-reporting in several countries.
Outside Africa, most cases are among men, and in cases where sexual orientation is reported, most cases are among men who have sex with men.
In May of this year, I declared an end to mpox as a public health emergency of international concern.
The number of reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths globally has declined steadily since August last year.
However, we have seen a significant increase in cases in the last two months in Asia, and cases continue to be reported regularly in Africa.
As I did with COVID, I established a review committee to advise me on standing recommendations to support countries to manage mpox in the long-term.
On Tuesday this week, on the advice of the committee, I issued those recommendations, in seven major areas.
First, all countries should develop and implement national mpox plans, with the aim of eliminating human-to-human transmission.
Second, to maintain control and achieve elimination, countries should ensure mpox is closely monitored and sustain outbreak surveillance.
Third, all countries should enhance community protection, through risk communication, working closely with community representatives and organizations, and by combating stigma and discrimination.
Fourth, all countries should initiate, support, and collaborate on research on mpox prevention and control.
Fifth, all countries should provide information to travellers who may be at risk on how to protect themselves and others.
Sixth, all countries should deliver optimal clinical care for mpox, integrated into programmes for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and other health services as needed.
And seventh, all countries should work towards ensuring equitable access to safe, effective and quality-assured vaccines, tests and treatments for mpox, to reach those most at risk or in need of care.
To say more about the committee’s work and its advice, I’m pleased to welcome its Chair, Professor Preben Aavitsland, from the Department of Global Public Health and Primary Health Care at the University of Bergen in Norway.
Professor Aavitsland, thank you for your leadership of the committee and for the strong recommendations you have proposed. You have the floor.
[PROFESSOR AAVITSLAND SPEAKS]
Thank you, Professor Aavitsland, and thank you once again for your leadership of the review committee for both the mpox and COVID-19 standing recommendations.
As Professor Aavitsland said, engaging communities is key to the response to mpox. In fact, it’s key in every area of health.
Listening to the voices of individuals and communities is essential to addressing the challenges they face.
Strengthening WHO’s work with civil society has been a key priority for WHO, as part of the transformation we have been making since I began as Director-General in 2017.
We have set up the WHO Civil Society Task Force for Tuberculosis, the WHO Advisory Group of Women Living with HIV, the WHO Civil Society Working Group on Noncommunicable Diseases, and other ways to engage with civil society on specific health issues.
I have also held regular dialogue with civil society on topics including long COVID, healthy ageing, sexual and reproductive health, traditional medicine, climate change, sustainable financing and more, to hear directly from them on their challenges and proposed solutions.
But we recognise that we must make engagement with civil society more systematic across the three levels of WHO and establish ways to listen to the voices of the people that WHO serves.
Yesterday, we launched the WHO Civil Society Commission, to advise us on how we can work better with the communities we serve.
To say more about the work of the Civil Society Commission, I’m delighted to welcome the Co-Chair of its Steering Committee, Lisa Hilmi. Lisa is Executive Director of CORE Group, bringing together health practitioners and public health professionals to improve community health practices for underserved populations.
Lisa, thank you for joining us today, and thank you for your leadership of this important new initiative. Over to you.
[LISA HILMI SPEAKS]
Thank you once again Lisa, I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead.
Before we move to Q&A, a few words on a couple of other issues:
Last week, I had the honour to be in India for the G20 Health Ministers’ Meeting.
One of the main health outcomes of India’s G20 Presidency is the launch of the Global Initiative on Digital Health.
Over the last two decades, the power and potential of digital technologies for health, including artificial intelligence, has exploded.
One of the main challenges we face is significant fragmentation, driven by the proliferation of new digital tools.
The Global Initiative on Digital Health will help to overcome this fragmentation by converging and convening global standards and best practices.
Most importantly, the initiative puts countries at the centre – listening to what they need, aligning resources to support them, and providing robust building blocks which enable local entrepreneurs to support public health priorities.
Alongside the G20 Health Ministers’ Meeting in India last week, WHO also held the first global summit on traditional medicine.
Throughout history, people in all countries and cultures have used indigenous knowledge, natural resources and traditional, complementary and integrative medicine to meet their needs for health and well-being.
For hundreds of millions of people, traditional medicine is simply medicine – they rely on it for their health and well-being.
And many of the most important treatments in so-called “conventional” medicine have their origins in traditional medicine, including artemisinin, the backbone of malaria treatment; drugs for childhood cancers; aspirin; contraceptive pills and the smallpox vaccine.
Of course, traditional medicine has its own value, independent of what it contributes to conventional medicine.
And yet too often, traditional medicine is stigmatised or dismissed as unscientific.
Let me be very clear: WHO is committed to developing the scientific basis to support the safe and effective use of traditional, complementary and integrative medicine in all countries.
But to ignore traditional medicine is to ignore a key component of health care for a large part of the world’s population.
Last year, I had the honour of launching the WHO Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in India, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The centre will scale up capacities to build the evidence and data to inform policies, standards and regulations for the safe, cost-effective, and equitable use of traditional, complementary and integrative medicine.