The Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for greater cooperation of the world it to beat the COVID-19 campaign and tackle the threat from climate change.
Speaking at the opening of the seventy-third World Health Assembly Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, (pic) warned the world was at a fork in the road for its very future.
He said: “Two weeks ago I became a grandfather. As I looked into my granddaughter Mia’s face for the first time and held her tiny hand, I experienced the same joy, wonder, hope, pride and love as any parent or grandparent.
“But like any parent or grandparent, that joy was tinged with worry. I wonder what sort of world my granddaughter, will grow up in. Although she knows nothing about it, the COVID-19 pandemic will shape her life and the world she grows up in.”
He was speaking as the global number of cases of COVID across the world reached 50 million with more than 1.2 million people having died from the virus.
However, Dr Ghebreyesus warned millions more have died due to disruption of essential health services.
“But this pandemic has also taken a toll in ways that no one can measure,” he explained. “We can’t measure the grief of families who weren’t able to say goodbye to their loved ones. We can’t measure the fear felt by so many in the face of an uncertain future.”
There remained a great deal of uncertainty, said Dr Ghebreyesus as no one knows the long-term effects of this virus on the human body.
“Although this is a global crisis, we must remember that countries have responded differently, and they have been affected differently,” he said. “Half of all cases and deaths are in just four countries.
“There are many countries and cities that have successfully prevented or controlled transmission with a comprehensive, evidence-based approach.
“Nevertheless, several countries, especially in Europe and the Americas, have now re-introduced restrictions to address the new wave of infections they are facing, and prevent their health systems from being overwhelmed.”
Dr Ghebreyesus warned the fight was far from over.
“We might be tired of COVID-19. But it is not tired of us,” he explained. “Yes, it preys on those in weaker health. But it preys on other weaknesses, too: inequality, division, denial, wishful thinking and wilful ignorance.
“We cannot negotiate with it, nor close our eyes and hope it goes away. It pays no heed to political rhetoric or conspiracy theories. Our only hope is science, solutions and solidarity.”
He said the efforts that had been made by the WHO and partner organisations had made a difference but it was still an ongoing fight.
“When the history of the pandemic is written, I believe that the ACT Accelerator will be recorded as one of its standout successes,” added Dr Ghebreyesus. “Even as we use the tools, we have to suppress transmission and save lives, we know we need better tools to bring the pandemic under control. “
“This will not be the last global health crisis,” he said. “When the next one arrives, will the headlines be the same? Will they say that after the COVID-19 pandemic, the world wrung its hands, wrote reports and changed nothing?
“Or will they say that COVID-19 was a turning point for global health security, and for global health?
“This is our opportunity to write that story now. A vaccine is needed urgently to control the pandemic. But as you know, it will not fix the vulnerabilities at its roots.
“A vaccine cannot address the global under-investment in essential public health functions and resilient health systems, nor the urgent need for a ‘One Health’ approach that encompasses the health of humans, animals and the planet we share.”
Dr Ghebreyesus added none of these challenges can be addressed in isolation. They are deeply intertwined – and so must be the world’s response as the pandemic cannot be allowed to deflect the world’s efforts to combat climate change.
“The world has reached a fork in the road,” he said. “We cannot afford to pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at the same rate and still breathe clean air. We must choose.
“We cannot afford ever-deepening inequalities and expect continued peace and prosperity. We must choose. And we cannot afford to see health merely as a by-product of development, or a commodity that only the rich can afford.
“We must see it for what it is: a fundamental human right that underpins every human aspiration.
“Today and every day, we must choose health. We’re one big family. The rule of the game is cooperation, solidarity, compassion, peace.”