After finally putting an end to three years of “crisis, suffering and loss” linked to COVID-19 in 2023, the world must properly prepare for future pandemics, the head of the WHO said on Tuesday.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stressed that this year had marked a turning point in the fight against major health problems, but that there had also been “immense suffering which would have could have been avoided.
In his end-of-year message, Tedros called for stepped-up humanitarian efforts for the Gaza Strip and urged countries to reach an “outstanding” deal to fill preparedness gaps in the event of the next pandemic.
“The year 2024 offers a unique opportunity to close these gaps,” he said, recalling that countries are negotiating the first-ever global agreement on pandemic threats.
“The Pandemic Agreement is designed to close the gaps in collaboration, cooperation and fairness,” he added.
Mr. Tedros raised the highest level of alert on the COVID-19 pandemic in May, believing that it was now sufficiently under control.
“It marked a turning point for the world after three years of crisis, suffering and loss for people around the world. I am happy to see that life has returned to normal,” underlined the WHO boss in his video message.
The WHO also lifted the similar alert for mpox (long called monkeypox) in May 2023, while the UN health agency approved new vaccines against malaria, dengue and meningitis, recalled Mr. Tedros. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan, Belize and Tajikistan have been declared malaria-free.
Mr. Tedros was delighted that during the last COP, the effects of climate change on health were highlighted.
The head of the WHO described as “barbaric” the attacks by Hamas against Israel “which triggered a devastating attack on Gaza”. He added that “relief and humanitarian efforts fall far short of meeting the needs of the people of Gaza”, reiterating the WHO’s call for an immediate ceasefire.
Concerning the resurgence of cholera, with a record number of more than 40 Pandemic outbreaks around the world, he indicated that the situation is “particularly worrying”.