Home Web information Remarks by WHO Director-General at Member States briefing on COVID-19 – World

Remarks by WHO Director-General at Member States briefing on COVID-19 – World


Honorable Ministers, Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening to all Member States, and thank you for joining us once again.

Yesterday I returned to Geneva after a trip to Lebanon and Afghanistan with Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean.

Our goal in both countries was to see first-hand the health challenges communities face and engage with senior political leaders to assess how best WHO can support health systems under high pressure. .

In Lebanon, we had the opportunity to meet the President, the Prime Minister, as well as the Minister of Health and others.

The deadly combination of the political and financial crisis, last year’s explosion in the port of Beirut and the COVID-19 pandemic has devastating consequences for the health of the Lebanese people.

There is a severe shortage of supplies, medical equipment, fuel and electricity.

2,000 doctors and 1,500 nurses have left the country and 600 private pharmacies have closed

WHO continues to work to support the health system and the provision of essential services and supplies.

For example, last year’s explosion at the Port of Beirut completely destroyed a warehouse used to store essential medicines. With the support of the European Union, Kuwait and Japan, WHO has succeeded not only in rehabilitating the warehouse, but also in increasing its capacity by five.

In Afghanistan, we met with senior members of the Taliban leadership, including the acting Prime Minister, as well as United Nations partners, health workers and patients, and WHO staff.

I think it is essential to involve the Taliban leadership if we are to support the Afghan people.

The Afghan health system is on the verge of collapse. Unless urgent action is taken, the country faces an impending humanitarian catastrophe.

The breakdown of health services is affecting the availability of basic and essential health care, as well as emergency response, polio eradication and COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Our efforts are now focused on supporting and sustaining the Sehatmandi Project, which is the backbone of the Afghan health system, providing care to millions of people in 2,300 health facilities, including in remote areas.

But due to a pause in funding from major donors, only 17% of these facilities are fully functional and two-thirds have stockouts of essential drugs.

As a palliative, the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are funding WHO and our partners to ensure the continuity of health services for the next three month. But that’s just not enough.

WHO calls on international donors to quickly re-commit to funding Sehatmandi, as they have been doing for nearly two decades.

As you know, Afghanistan is also one of two countries in the world where polio remains endemic. There has been only one case of wild poliovirus reported so far this year, up from 56 in 2020.

WHO and partners stand ready to launch a nationwide door-to-door vaccination campaign and include measles and COVID vaccination in an integrated campaign.

In our discussions with the Taliban leadership, we also offered to support and accelerate the process of reopening high schools to girls, in partnership with other United Nations agencies.

Girls’ education is essential to protect and promote the health of the people, but also to build the health workforce of the future in Afghanistan.

We reiterate WHO’s long-term commitment to advancing the health of all Afghans and remind all stakeholders of our collective obligations today and in the months and years to come.


Even as we respond to acute emergencies around the world, the Secretariat is also working to address environmental determinants of health, including air pollution and climate change.

Yesterday we launched the updated WHO guidelines for global air quality, which make it clear why we need to reduce air pollution.

Since the last update in 2005, a substantial new body of evidence has accumulated further demonstrating the degree to which air pollution affects all parts of the body, from the brain to a growing baby in the womb. ‘a mother, at even lower concentrations than previously observed. .

This is why these new guidelines include lower recommended limits for pollutants, including particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone.

We urge all Member States to read and implement these new guidelines.


Yesterday, I had the honor to speak at the COVID-19 Global Summit hosted by the United States of America, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

I applaud the support of so many Member States for the Secretariat’s global goals of immunizing 40% of the population of each country by the end of this year and 70% by the middle of next year.

And I thank President Biden, not only for the welcome, but also for the promises of 500 million doses, which is important.

As you know, earlier this year we also set a target of vaccinating 10% of the population of each country by the end of September.

Almost 90% of the richest countries have now reached the 10% target. But 50 countries will not succeed, mainly in Africa.

At yesterday’s summit, Secretary General Antonio Guterres reiterated his call for a global immunization plan.

I am happy to say that the WHO Secretariat has developed this plan.

Today Dr Bruce Aylward and Dr Kate O’Brien will present WHO’s strategy to achieve our 70% target by mid-2022.

Achieving this goal requires 11 billion doses of vaccine. So far, 6 billion doses have been administered worldwide.

Global production has increased and we believe the supply is sufficient, but we are failing to provide equitable access.

But about 80 percent of the vaccines went to high-income and upper-middle-income countries. Low-income countries received less than 1%.

Let’s be clear: COVID-19 cannot be beaten one country at a time.

My friends, the investment required to achieve global immunization coverage is significant, but compared to the costs we face if this is left unchecked, these are peanuts. Let’s get it over with.


Even as we work to end this pandemic, the Secretariat is working to put in place the systems and tools we need to strengthen global health security.

Today you will hear an update from Dr Sylvie Briand on the progress we have made on the WHO BioHub, a facility in Switzerland to facilitate the rapid sharing of pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential.

The BioHub is a voluntary system, with predictable operating procedures to support the building of trust among participants. It is designed to complement, not replace, existing systems.

This innovative pandemic response system is being developed thanks to contributions from Member States.

But we also feel a certain urgency, as we don’t know when the next pandemic will arrive. We want this system to be operational when it does.


Finally, Monday of next week, I will have the honor of joining His Excellency President Macron for a groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of construction of the WHO Academy campus in Lyon.

The WHO Academy will deploy cutting-edge technologies to expand access to the highest quality health learning and the latest evidence-based health recommendations around the world.

The event will be webcast and social media live, and we invite all Member States to join us online.

As always, we appreciate your engagement in today’s presentation, and look forward to your questions and comments.

I thank you.


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