“Nurses and midwives have been on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, putting themselves in harm’s way. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of humanity,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the opening of the Seventy-Third World Health Assembly.
This year is the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. This Assembly was intended to be a moment of recognition for the incredible contribution that nurses and midwives make every day, in every country.
“The world is facing a shortfall of 6 million nurses to achieve and sustain universal health coverage. WHO published the first State of the World’s Nursing report provides a roadmap for governments to invest in nursing, to fill that gap and progress towards universal health coverage. Health for all. Now more than ever, the world needs nurses and midwives,” Tedros added.
The director general also said that the world has confronted several pandemics before. This is the first caused by a coronavirus. This is a dangerous enemy, with a dangerous combination of features: this virus is efficient, fast, and fatal. It can operate in the dark, spread silently if we’re not paying attention, then suddenly explode if we aren’t ready. And moves like a bushfire.
More than 4-and-a-half million cases of COVID-19 have now been reported to WHO, and more than 300,000 people have lost their lives. The health impacts of the pandemic extend far beyond the sickness and death caused by the virus itself. The disruption to health systems threatens to unwind decades of progress against maternal and child mortality, HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, noncommunicable diseases, mental health, polio and many other of the most urgent health threats.
Some countries are succeeding in preventing widespread community transmission; some have issued stay-at-home orders and imposed severe social restrictions to suppress community transmission; some are still bracing for the worst; and some are now assessing how to ease the restrictions that have exacted such a heavy social and economic toll.
In his opening speech Tedros also added that, “WHO fully understands and supports the desire of countries to get back on their feet and back to work. It’s precisely because we want the fastest possible global recovery that we urge countries to proceed with caution. Countries that move too fast, without putting in place the public health architecture to detect and suppress transmission, run a real risk of handicapping their own recovery. Early serology studies are painting a consistent picture: even in the worst-affected regions, the proportion of the population with the tell-tale antibodies is no more than 20 percent, and in most places, less than 10 percent. In other words: the majority of the world’s population remains susceptible to this virus. The risk remains high and we have a long road to travel.”
The SARS outbreak gave rise to the revision of the International Health Regulations, in 2005; The H1N1 pandemic saw the creation of the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework; and the Ebola outbreak of 2014 and 15 led to the establishment of the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility, the WHO Emergencies Programme and the Independent Oversight Advisory Committee.
The Virtual World Health Assembly was also attended by President Sommaruga, President Ramaphosa, President Xi, President Macron, President Moon, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Mottley, and Jagat Prakash Nadda- President of the World Health Assembly.