Keynote address by the WHO Director-General at the press briefing – 21 December 2022

Good morning, good afternoon or good evening.


The year 2022 has been another very difficult year for the health of people around the world.


It was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is in its third year; a global epidemic of monkeypox; an outbreak of Ebola in Uganda; wars in Ethiopia and Ukraine; outbreaks of cholera in several countries; droughts and floods in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel; floods in Pakistan; and many other health emergencies.


Not to mention the myriad other health threats that individuals face year after year from the air they breathe, the products they consume, the conditions in which they live and work, and their lack of access to essential health services.


And yet, as 2022 draws to a close, we still have plenty to hope for.


The COVID-19 pandemic has receded significantly this year, the global monkeypox epidemic is waning, and there have been no cases of Ebola in Uganda for over three weeks.


We hope that these emergencies will be declared over in turn in the coming year.


Certainly, we are in a much better situation than a year ago as far as the pandemic is concerned. We were then in the early stages of the Omicron wave, which led to a rapid increase in cases and deaths.


But since peaking in late January, the number of weekly reported deaths from COVID-19 has fallen nearly 90%.


However, there are still too many uncertainties and gaps for us to declare the pandemic over.


Due to shortcomings in surveillance, testing and sequencing, we are unable to understand well enough how the virus is evolving.


Due to immunization gaps, millions of people – especially health workers and the elderly – remain at high risk of contracting a severe form of the disease and dying.


Due to treatment gaps, people are dying needlessly.


Due to gaps in health systems, they are not able to cope with the increase in the number of patients with COVID-19, influenza and other diseases.


Due to gaps in our understanding of post-COVID-19 illness, we are unable to understand how best to care for those suffering from the long-term consequences of infection;


And gaps in our understanding of how this pandemic began compromise our ability to prevent future pandemics.


We continue to call on China to share the data and conduct the studies that we have requested, and continue to request.


As I have said many times before, all the hypotheses about the origins of this pandemic remain on the table.


At the same time, the WHO is very concerned about developments in China, where reports of severe forms of the disease are increasing.


In order to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment on the ground, the Organization needs more detailed information on disease severity, hospital admissions and intensive care needs.


WHO is helping China focus efforts on vaccinating those most at risk across the country; it also continues to support him with clinical care and help protect his health care system.


At our last press conference last year, I indicated that in 2022 we should apply the lessons learned from the pandemic.


I note with satisfaction that this year, the world has worked concretely to bring about the changes required to ensure the security of future generations.


A new Pandemic Fund has been created.


Countries committed to negotiate a legally binding agreement on pandemic preparedness and response.


And we established the Technology Transfer Center for mRNA Vaccines in South Africa, to give low- and lower-middle-income countries the know-how to rapidly produce their own mRNA vaccines.


Even though the number of weekly cases and deaths from COVID-19 has decreased during the year, we have had to deal with many other emergencies.


In July, I declared the global outbreak of monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern.


More than 83,000 cases have been reported in 110 countries, although the death rate has remained low, with 66 deaths reported.


Similar to COVID-19, the number of weekly reported cases of monkeypox has dropped more than 90% from the peak.


If the current trend continues, it is hoped that next year we will also be able to declare an end to this emergency.


Additionally, the countdown to the end of the Ebola outbreak in Uganda has begun, knowing that no new cases have been recorded since November 27 and no patients are being treated so far. moment.


If no new cases are detected, the end of the epidemic will be declared on January 11.


With support from WHO, the Government of Uganda is now focusing on maintaining surveillance and preparing for any new cases.


Meanwhile, WHO continues to respond to cholera outbreaks in 30 countries, including Haiti, where 310 deaths from the disease have been reported after more than 3 years without a single case.


Last week, Haiti received nearly 1.2 million doses of oral cholera vaccines, and vaccination campaigns have now begun in the most affected areas. WHO/PAHO has also provided nearly 50 tons of essential medical supplies to cholera treatment centres.


In the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, weather-related droughts and floods are worsening the food crisis and fueling outbreaks of cholera, yellow fever, measles and vaccine-derived poliovirus.


WHO and partners work on the ground, working to ensure access to basic health services and treatment for severe malnutrition and to help countries prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks epidemic.


In addition to epidemics, climate-related crises and other emergencies, conflicts have compromised the health and well-being of millions of people this year in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.


In all these countries, attacks on health services constantly undermine the work of the Organization.


In 2022, the WHO established that more than 1,000 attacks had targeted health services in 16 countries, leaving 220 dead and 436 injured.


Attacks on health services are a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law. They deprive people of care when they need it most.


WHO’s emergency response activities often grab the headlines, but around the world the Organization has also carried out many other essential activities to protect and promote health that do not make headlines. as often.


WHO has helped countries restore essential health services that had been disrupted during the pandemic, including in the area of ​​routine immunization, where we have seen the largest uninterrupted drop in childhood immunization recorded for 30 years.


As a result, 25 million children have not received life-saving vaccines, and closing this gap is now one of the Organization’s highest priorities.


This year, WHO continued to support the roll-out of the world’s first malaria vaccine, reaching more than one million children in Africa.


The Organization has helped countries adopt new laws or introduce new taxes to combat products harmful to health, including tobacco, trans fats and sugary drinks.


New information has for the first time highlighted critical gaps in oral health services, health services for refugees and migrants, infection prevention and control services, services for people with disabilities , And so on.


The Organization has published life-saving guidance on HIV, TB, hepatitis C, maternal and newborn health, safe abortion and more.


It has strived to elevate health to the top of the climate agenda, in a context marked by the continuous increase in the frequency and severity of extreme weather events.


She warned of the growing resistance to bacterial infections, and published the first list of priority fungal infections threatening public health.


And more recently, WHO’s partnership with FIFA reached billions of people around the world through health promotion campaigns during the World Cup.


2022 was also a historic year for the future of WHO, as Member States pledged to increase their assessed contributions to up to 50% of the core budget over the next ten years, against only 16% currently.


This will allow WHO to benefit from much more predictable and sustainable funding, which will allow the Organization to implement long-term programming in countries, and to attract and retain the world-renowned experts from whom it has need.


Next year, the WHO will celebrate its 75th anniversary.


In 1948, as the world recovered from the Second World War, the nations of the world joined together to acknowledge, under the terms of the Constitution, that the possession of the highest attainable standard of health constitutes one of the fundamental rights of every human being, whatever their race, religion, political opinions, economic or social condition.


But there is more: the WHO Constitution states that the health of all peoples is a fundamental condition of world peace and security.


Perhaps more than at any other time in the past 75 years, the past three years have demonstrated just how true those words are.


Like any organization, the WHO is not perfect, nor does it pretend to be.


But the committed and talented people I work with have dedicated their careers to protecting and promoting the health of people around the world.


Like them, I remain committed to building a healthier, safer and fairer future for these people – the people we all serve.


With that, I wish a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah and a Happy New Year to all who celebrate these festivities, as well as joy to people around the world.


Margaret, you have the floor.


Source: World Health Organization