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The World Health Organization has raised the alarm over the looming another deadlier pandemic .
The Director General of World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, gave this warning on Tuesday while delivering his report to the 76th World Health Assembly (WHA), at WHO Headquarters, in Geneva, Switzerland.
He called for the world to pull together and make the difficult decisions needed to end the Covid-19 pandemic within the next year.
His words : “The threat of another variant emerging that causes new surges of disease and death remains, and the threat of another pathogen emerging with even deadlier potential remains.”
He said although COVID-19 may no longer be a global public health emergency, countries must still strengthen response to the disease and prepare for future pandemics and other threats.
“The end of COVID-19 as a global health emergency is not the end of COVID-19 as a global health threat,” he said. The WHA is WHO’s apex decision-making body.
“Pandemics are far from the only threat we face”, he added, underscoring the need for effective global mechanisms that address and respond to emergencies of all kinds.
“When the next pandemic comes knocking – and it will – we must be ready to answer decisively, collectively, and equitably,” he advised.
Ghebreyesus said COVID-19 had significant implications for health-related targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have a deadline of 2030.
The pandemic also affected progress towards the Triple Billion targets, announced at the 2017 WHA.
The five-year initiative calls for ensuring one billion more people have universal health coverage, a billion more are better protected from health emergencies, and another billion more enjoy better health and wellbeing.
Ghebreyesus reported that countries have made progress on universal health coverage, with some 477 million people now benefitting. However, he warned that if current trends continue, fewer than half the world’s people would be covered by the end of the decade, “meaning we must, at least, double the pace”.
He said: “The pandemic (COVID-19) has blown us off course, but it has shown us why the SDGs must remain our north star, and why we must pursue them with the same urgency and determination with which we countered the pandemic.”
Ghebreyesus also highlighted several achievements that have been made over the past year in what he called the “five Ps”: promoting, providing, protecting, powering, and performing for health.
Countries have taken action to promote health by preventing disease and addressing their root causes. For example, between 2017 and 2022, 133 governments increased or introduced a new tax on products that harm health, such as tobacco and sugary drinks.
“We also see encouraging progress in eliminating industrially-produced trans-fat from the global food supply,” he said. “Many countries have also made impressive progress in reducing salt intake, a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”
On protection, Ghebreyesus noted that with the end of COVID-19 and mpox as global public health emergencies, only polio now remains.
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