Pandemic Threatens Decades of Progress in Global Health

The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Ghebreyesus, warns the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening decades of progress against infectious and communicable diseases. In an opening speech to a weeklong meeting of the World Health Assembly, Tedros urged nations to come together to defeat this common enemy.American singer-songwriter Kim Sledge who led the Tongan Nurses Choir, got the meeting off to an upbeat start with this rousing rendition of the classic song “We are Family.”In an appropriate gesture of thanks, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus paid tribute to the incredible contribution of nurses and midwives in braving the dangers of the coronavirus to save the lives of others.He struck a personal note by expressing his joy at becoming a grandfather for the first time two weeks ago—a joy, he said that was tinged with worry.“I wonder what sort of world Mia, 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,” said WHO chief.A world in which nearly 50 million people globally have been infected with the coronavirus, cutting short the lives of more than 1.2 million people.Tedros said many countries and cities have successfully prevented or curbed spread of the disease. But noted several countries, especially in Europe and the Americas, have re-imposed restrictions to battle a new wave of infections. “We might be tired of COVID-19. But it is not tired of us. It pays no heed to political rhetoric or conspiracy theories. Our only hope is science, solutions and solidarity,” said Tedros.While the WHO is focused on coordinating and supporting the response to the pandemic, Tedros said the agency has not neglected other global health needs that do not make the headlines.“But so far this year we have responded to more than 60 emergencies, including major outbreaks of Chikungunya in Chad, yellow fever in Gabon and Togo, measles in Mexico, conflicts in the Sahel, Middle East and the Caucasus, storms in the Philippines and Vietnam, and much more,” he said.Tedros said none of the health worries and many other challenges facing the world can be addressed in isolation.  He said they are deeply intertwined and must be tackled in solidarity and compassion with one another.In that spirit, he congratulated U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. He said he looked forward to working with their administration very closely. 


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