First to Gaza, where WHO continues to face extreme challenges in supporting the health system and health workers.
As of today, over 100,000 Gazans are either dead, injured or missing and presumed dead.
WHO has faced great difficulty even to reach hospitals in southern Gaza.
Heavy fighting has been reported near hospitals in Khan Younis, severely impeding access to health facilities for patients, health workers and supplies.
During a UN mission on Monday, WHO delivered medical supplies to Nasser medical complex. Other missions to deliver fuel and food were denied.
Despite challenges, Nasser hospital continues to offer health services, also at reduced capacity.
The hospital is operating with a single ambulance. Donkey carts are being used for transporting patients.
Yesterday we made another attempt to get food to Nasser, but due to delays about 500 metres from the checkpoint, the food was taken from the trucks by crowds, who are also desperate for food.
Our teams on the ground report increasing food shortages for medical staff and patients, with only one meal per day.
The risk of famine is high and increasing each day with persistent hostilities and restricted humanitarian access.
Every person our teams talk to ask for food and water.
Decisions by various countries to pause funds for UNRWA, the largest supplier of humanitarian aid in this crisis, will have catastrophic consequences for the people of Gaza.
No other entity has the capacity to deliver the scale and breadth of assistance that 2.2 million people in Gaza urgently need.
We appeal for these announcements to be reconsidered.
We continue to call for safe access for humanitarian personnel and supplies.
We continue to call for the hostages to be released.
We continue to call for health care to be protected, and not attacked or militarised.
And we continue to call for a ceasefire.
Last week, WHO’s Executive Board met to discuss many aspects of the Organization’s work.
Among other issues, the Board reviewed WHO’s global strategic plan for the next four years, and approved the first WHO Investment Round, which we will hold later this year, and which aims to generate more predictable, flexible and sustainable funding for WHO’s work.
Member States also discussed WHO’s work on health emergencies, including pandemic prevention, preparedness and response.
They expressed strong support for the pandemic agreement and amendments to the International Health Regulations, and emphasised the urgency of concluding negotiations in time for the World Health Assembly in May of this year.
It’s vital that Member States meet that deadline.
Yesterday, a group of more than 40 global health leaders published an open letter calling on world leaders to show leadership, urgency and commitment to conclude a pandemic agreement that transcends business as usual. I echo that call.
One of the main purposes of the agreement is to improve equitable access to vaccines, tests, treatments and other products.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO established COVAX and the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP, to facilitate sharing of intellectual property, knowledge and innovations.
COVAX closed at the end of last year, and today we are pleased to announce that C-TAP will become the Health Technology Access Pool, HTAP, with a broader mission to expand access to lifesaving tools for COVID-19 and other priority diseases.
We’re also pleased to announce that WHO and the Medicines Patent Pool have agreed a license agreement with the company SD Biosensor for the rights, know-how and material to manufacture its rapid diagnostic technology.
Also discussed at last week’s Executive Board was WHO’s work on noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
One of the most important actions countries can take to prevent these diseases is eliminating the things that cause them, including tobacco and trans fat.
Industrially-produced trans fat is used in many food products. It has no known health benefit, but carries huge health risks.
Five years ago, WHO launched a campaign to eliminate industrially-produced trans fat from the global food supply.
So far, 53 countries have introduced best-practice policies including bans or limits on trans fat, with three more countries on the way.
However, introducing a policy is one thing. Implementing it is another.
So last year, WHO launched the process to recognise countries who are going beyond introducing policies to monitoring and enforcing them.
On Monday, we validated the first five countries who are leading the world in implementing their policies on trans fat elimination: Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.
Congratulations to these five countries, and we look forward to more countries joining them.
Finally, yesterday marked World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day, and Sunday was World Leprosy Day.
Neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, affect more than one billion people around the world, especially in poor and marginalized communities.
But NTDs are preventable, and in many cases, can be eliminated completely from countries.
So far, 50 countries have eliminated at least one NTD, and we are on track to reach our goal of 100 countries by 2030.
But medical interventions are not enough. We must also address the conditions in which these diseases thrive, including stigma and discrimination.
This year, the theme for World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day is “Unite. Act. Eliminate.”
One of the oldest and most misunderstood diseases in the world is leprosy.
The world has made great progress against leprosy. The number of reported cases has dropped from an estimated 5 million a year in the mid 1980s to about 200,000 cases a year now.
Although it has now been curable for more than 40 years, it still has the power to stigmatize.
Stigma contributes to hesitancy to seek treatment, putting people at risk of disabilities and contributing to ongoing transmission.
Eliminating leprosy therefore requires not only renewed political commitment and access to services to treat it, but also awareness raising to mitigate stigma and increase social participation for those affected by leprosy.
One of the world’s leading advocates for leprosy elimination is Yohei Sasakawa, the Chairman of the Nippon Foundation and WHO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination.
Mr Sasakawa has dedicated his life to ending leprosy and promoting human rights for those affected by the disease.
Later this afternoon, I will join him in launching the Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy.
Sasakawa-san, thank you for your dedication to this cause. Arigatõzaimasu, you have the floor.
Thank you for your leadership and commitment, Sasakawa-san, and thank you once again for your commitment to fighting this disease, as well as the stigma and discrimination it brings.
Thank you for not just taking it as a health problem but as a human rights issue.
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