By Sue-Ann Wayow
IN 2020, a health crisis of historic proportions showed us just how closely connected we all are.
Those are the words of Director – General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in his New Year’s message to the world.
As the world gets ready to ring in 2021 in the middle of the most devastating pandemic in modern history, the head of WHO is being grateful for the challenges that were overcame, he is advising the global population to maintain its Covid-19 protocols and also urged funding for vaccines to be distributed to countries most in need.
In his statement, Dr Ghebreyesus said, “As people around the world celebrated New Year’s Eve 12 months ago, a new global threat emerged. Since that moment, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken so many lives and caused massive disruption to families, societies and economies all over the world. But it also triggered the fastest and most wide-reaching response to a global health emergency in human history.”
He said, “The hallmarks of this response have been an unparalleled mobilisation of science, a search for solutions and a commitment to global solidarity. Acts of generosity, large and small, equipped hospitals with the tools that health workers needed to stay safe and care for their patients. Outpourings of kindness have helped society’s most vulnerable through troubled times.”
About the much needed vaccines, Dr Ghebreyesus said, “To protect the world, we must ensure that all people at risk everywhere not just in countries who can afford vaccines are immunised.”
He said thanks to collaborations including the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics have been developed and rolled out, at record speed.
Equity was the essence of the ACT Accelerator, and its vaccine arm, COVAX, which has secured access to two billion doses of promising vaccine candidates, he said.
The Director-General said in order to provide vaccines for the lower and middle income countries, COVAX needed just over US$4 billion urgently, “the challenge we must rise to in the new year.”
He said the events of 2020 provided key lessons, and reminders for everyone to take into 2021 and not to be ignored adding that conspiracy theories and attacks on science should not be allowed to prevail, resulting in unnecessary suffering to people’s health and society.
Dr Ghebreyesus said, “First and foremost, 2020 has shown that governments must increase investment in public health, from funding access to Covid vaccines for all people, to making our systems better prepared to prevent and respond to the next, inevitable, pandemic. At the heart of this is investing in universal health coverage to make health for all a reality.”
He said, “Second, as it will take time to vaccinate everyone against Covid, we must keep adhering to tried and tested measures that keep each and all of us safe. This means maintaining physical distance, wearing face masks, practicing hand and respiratory hygiene, avoiding crowded indoor places and meeting people outside. These simple, yet effective measures will save lives and reduce the suffering that so many people encountered in 2020.”
“And above all, we must commit to working together in solidarity, as a global community, to promote and protect health today, and in the future,” Dr Ghebreyesus said.
He said, “We have seen how divisions in politics and communities feed the virus and foment the crisis. But, collaboration and partnership save lives and safeguard societies. We also witnessed how acts of malice, and misinformation, caused avoidable harm.”
Dr Ghebreyesus ending his message by saying, “There is light at the end of the tunnel, and we will get there by taking the path together. WHO stands with you. We are family and we are in this together. I wish you and your loved ones a peaceful, safe and healthy new year.”