WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at media briefing – 2 November 2022
Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening.
This week marks two years since the siege of Tigray began.
The Afar and Amhara regions are also affected by the conflict, but WHO and our partners have access to those regions and have been able to deliver humanitarian aid.
However, the humanitarian situation in Tigray remains catastrophic. As I have said before, the siege of 6 million people by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Since the beginning of the siege, food, medicine and other basic services have been weaponised.
It has now been more than two months since the last humanitarian aid reached Tigray.
But even before that, the aid reaching Tigray was a trickle – nowhere near enough to meet the needs.
Large numbers of displaced people are now arriving in, or moving towards, the regional capital Mekelle.
Most UN agencies and NGOs have now left towns in the region’s northeast because of security concerns.
Some health partners have shut down because they cannot access the funds, fuel and other supplies they need to serve the community.
WHO continues to call for unfettered humanitarian access for the millions of people who are in dire need.
And we continue to call on the international community to give the crisis in Tigray the right attention.
The only solution to this situation remains peace, and we hope that the talks now taking place in South Africa will lead to a peaceful and enduring resolution.
Now to the Ebola outbreak in Uganda.
There have now been 130 confirmed cases of Ebola disease, 21 probable cases, 43 confirmed deaths and 21 probable deaths.
Mubende remains the most affected district, however cases have recently increased in two neighbouring districts, and 17 cases have been confirmed in the capital Kampala.
Although these cases are linked to known clusters, the very fact that there are cases in a densely populated city underscores the very real risk of further transmission, and the very urgent need for increased readiness in districts and surrounding countries.
WHO continues to work closely with the Government of Uganda and partners to respond to the outbreak, and we continue to urge a strengthened global response and increased donor investment.
To support the response, WHO yesterday released an additional 5.7 million U.S. dollars from our Contingency Fund for Emergencies, in addition to the 5 million dollars we released previously.
Finally, next week, Egypt will host the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP27, where countries will assess progress towards the agreed target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Meeting that target will have massive benefits for human health; failing to meet it comes with massive risks.
Climate change is already impacting health in many ways, through more frequent and extreme weather events, more disease outbreaks, and more mental health issues.
In the Greater Horn of Africa, a combination of drought and floods have left 47 million people facing acute hunger, and 18 million people have been displaced.
In the Sahel region, in West and Central Africa, the temperature is rising 1.5 times faster than the global average, and a combination of flooding, drought and conflict are supercharging a food crisis.
Many countries in the Sahel are currently affected by flooding, including Nigeria, where 600 people have died and 1.4 million have been displaced.
In Pakistan, unprecedented floods have devasted large parts of the country. The impact will be felt for years to come. Over 33 million people have been affected and almost 1,500 health centres damaged.
Around the world, climate change is fuelling outbreaks of cholera and dengue, and increasing the risks of new pathogens emerging with epidemic and pandemic potential.
Climate change exacerbates disease and malnutrition, which have a compounding effect.
Sick people are more likely to be malnourished, and malnourished people are more likely to get sick and die.
The climate crisis is a health crisis.
WHO is calling on governments to lead a just, equitable and fast phase out of fossil fuels and transition to a clean energy future.
It’s now my pleasure to welcome my friend Martin Griffiths, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Martin, welcome, thank you for joining us, and you have the floor.
[MR GRIFFITHS ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]
Thank you, Martin.
It’s now my pleasure to welcome Nimo Hassan, the Director of the Somali NGO Consortium, where she works with communities to mitigate the impact of food insecurity.
Nimo, welcome, and you have the floor.
[MS HASSAN ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]
Thank you, Nimo, and thank you for everything you are doing with communities in Somalia. It’s this kind of grass-roots work that really makes a difference on the ground.
Our third and final guest is Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, the founder and director of the Ella Roberta Foundation, and an activist for action against air pollution.
Rosamund, welcome, and you have the floor.
[MS ADOO-KISSI-DEBRAH ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]
Thank you Rosamund, and thank you for your tireless advocacy for clean air.
Like you, WHO is committed to drawing attention to the impacts of climate change on health.
In addition to our normative work, one of the ways we’re doing that is through the annual Health for All Film Festival, which is now in its fourth year.
Submissions are now open until the end of January.
Alongside the usual categories of universal health coverage, health emergencies and better health and well-being, we have two special categories this year: sexual and reproductive health, and climate change and health.
The Health for All Film Festival will also be part of the Health Pavilion at COP27, and will be included in a side event on efficient communication about climate change and health.
We’re delighted that the American actress Sharon Stone has once again agreed to serve as a juror, and we look forward to putting together another high-level jury of experts in health and film.
Information about how to submit films is available on the WHO website.
Source: World Health Organization