Africa: WHO Director-General’s Opening Remarks At the Media Briefing On Covid-19 – 15 March 2021


Today marks 10 years since the start of the crisis in Syria. WHO continues to work on the ground with our partners to deliver services and supplies, protect public health and to support a network of more than 1700 health facilities.

Since our last press conference on Friday, several more countries have suspended the use of AstraZeneca vaccines as a precautionary measure. WHO’s Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety has been reviewing the available data, is in close contact with the European Medicines Agency and will meet tomorrow.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. We are now inviting everyone to support the 2021 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan through the Solidarity Response Fund. The money collected will be used to suppress transmission, save lives, fight the infodemic, and accelerate equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.

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Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

I would like to start by acknowledging that today marks 10 years since the start of the crisis in Syria.

WHO continues to work on the ground with our partners to deliver services and supplies, protect public health and to support a network of more than 1700 health facilities.

The conflict in Syria has brought a once highly-effective health system to its knees.

But tragically, it’s not an isolated example. Syria is one of many crises around the world, from Myanmar to Yemen and Tigray in Ethiopia, where millions of people have been denied access to essential health services, and where health facilities have been destroyed and health workers have been attacked and intimidated. This must stop.

Now more than ever, health workers, health supplies and health facilities must be supported, functioning and serving all people.

Now more than ever, parties to all conflicts must adhere to agreed international norms that protect health care.

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Since our last press conference on Friday, several more countries have suspended the use of AstraZeneca vaccines as a precautionary measure, after reports of blood clots in people who had received the vaccine from two batches produced in Europe.

This does not necessarily mean these events are linked to vaccination, but it’s routine practice to investigate them, and it shows that the surveillance system works and that effective controls are in place.

WHO’s Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety has been reviewing the available data, is in close contact with the European Medicines Agency and will meet tomorrow.

But the greatest threat that most countries face now is lack of access to vaccines.

Almost every day, I receive calls from senior political leaders around the world, asking when their country will receive their vaccines through COVAX.

Some of them are frustrated, and I understand why. They see some of the world’s richest countries buying enough vaccines to immunize their populations several times over, while their own countries have nothing.

We welcome the commitment by the Quad countries to deliver up to 1 billion doses of vaccine in the Asia-Pacific region through COVAX.

And we continue to call for all countries to work in solidarity to ensure that vaccination begins in all countries within the first 100 days of this year.

We have 26 days left.

No country can simply vaccinate its way out of this pandemic alone. We are all in this together.

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Today marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, an unprecedented collaboration between WHO, the United Nations Foundation, the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation and many other partners to generate funds for the pandemic response, including WHO’s Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.

Thanks to the generosity of individuals and corporations, over the past year we have raised US$242 million from more than 662,000 donors.

This is the first time in its history that WHO has received donations from the general public.

To every individual and organization that contributed, I say thank you.

Your donations made a significant impact all over the world.

With your support, we shipped more than 250 million items of personal protective equipment;

Provided technical support to hundreds of laboratories;

Supplied more than 250 million COVID-19 tests;

Coordinated the deployment of more than 180 teams and missions;

Delivered oxygen and supported over 12 thousand intensive care beds to prevent health systems from being overwhelmed;

Provided training through OpenWHO.org, which has more than 5 million registrations for courses that are delivered in more than 50 languages, from Albanian to Zulu;

And much more.

But as you know, the pandemic is not over.

Three weeks ago, we launched the Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan for 2021, which outlines how WHO will support countries in responding to the pandemic, and the resources we need to do it.

The plan calls for a total requirement of US$1.96 billion.

We thank all countries and organizations who have already committed funds.

We are now inviting everyone to support the 2021 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan through the Solidarity Response Fund.

The money collected will be used to suppress transmission, save lives, fight the infodemic, and accelerate equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.

When we launched the Solidarity Response Fund one year ago, the United Nations Foundation played a vital role in making it happen.

Today it’s my great honour to welcome Elizabeth Cousens, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Foundation.

Elizabeth, thank you so much for your support and partnership over the past year, and for everything your team has done. You have the floor.