SWITZERLAND –The 75th World Health Assembly (WHA) has begun in Geneva, Switzerland, to address major issues such as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the global health for peace initiative.
Covid-19 remains one of the top priorities of this year’s World Health Assembly, World Health Assembly – the decision-making body of WHO comprised of representatives of 194 countries.
This year’s assembly is the first of its kind to be held in Geneva and attended in person by delegates since the pandemic’s outbreak more than two years ago.
The WHO data show that reported Covid-19 cases have decreased significantly since the peak of the Omicron wave in January of this year, and deaths are at their lowest since March 2020.
However, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed in his address to the WHA opening that the pandemic is not yet over, and that “it’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere.”
He urged all countries to commit to achieving 70% vaccination coverage as soon as possible, while prioritizing vaccination of all health workers, over-60s, and those at high risk.
According to Dr. Tedros, all countries should maintain Covid-19 surveillance and sequencing, and be ready to reintroduce and adjust public health and social measures as needed. Countries must also work with communities to restore essential health services as soon as possible.
“The pandemic is not the only crisis in our world,” he said, echoing the theme of the 75th WHA “Health for Peace, Peace for Health,” and announced that the conference agenda will also include complex humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.
“More even than pandemics, war shakes and shatters the foundations on which previously stable societies stood. It deprives whole communities of essential health services, leaving children at risk of vaccine preventable diseases … Indeed, war, hunger and disease are old friends,” he deplored.
Attacks on health workers and health facilities are a breach of international humanitarian law. But they are also an assault on the right to health.”
So far this year, the WHO has confirmed 373 attacks on health facilities or personnel in 14 countries and territories.
The attacks killed 154 health workers and patients and injured 131 others.The seven-day World Health Assembly is expected to have the most topics discussed and resolutions passed, including the appointment of a new WHO Director-General for the next five years. Tedros, the current chief, is the sole candidate.
On the eve of the Health Assembly, WHO released the most recent set of World Health Statistics, an annual compilation of health statistics for WHO’s 194 Member States, on May 20.
The most recent edition summarizes trends in life expectancy and death causes, as well as progress toward global health/development goals for 2020.
The 2020-2021 Results Report, also released prior to WHA, summarizes the Organization’s accomplishments and challenges in carrying out the program budget.
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