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WHO; France & Italy hold trilateral meeting – WHO DG says the world needs international cooperation

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DG WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has stated that the COVID-19 pandemic is a once-in-a-century event that has shown the world that it was not as prepared as it should have been. ‘’We must all learn the lessons it is teaching us: that we are one humanity, and none of us are safe until all of us are safe.’’ Ghebreyesus stated this in a speech at the trilateral meeting of the WHO Germany and France.  A WHO statement also declared the 10th Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo over.

According to the WHO chief, ‘’Every day, WHO works all around the world to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Every month, we detect and respond to more than 7000 public health events and potential emergencies, all over the world.  ‘’Germany and France are longstanding friends of WHO and global health – both individually and as members of the European Union. For more than 50 years, France has hosted the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, and last year I was honoured to sign an agreement with President Emmanuel Macron to establish the new WHO Academy in the same city.

Likewise, Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a champion of global health, becoming the first world leader to address the World Health Assembly in 2015. But not only that, the first leader also to invite WHO in 2017, when Germany was hosting the G20, understanding the importance of health and the centrality of health. Germany was also instrumental in the development of the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All, bringing the global health community together to drive progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Today, we are deepening that friendship. WHO is a Member-State organization; a family of nations.  WHO is what its Member States decide it should be, and works with the resources its Member States decide it should have. Since I took office three years ago, WHO has embarked on the most significant transformation in its history.  Our aim has been to transform WHO into the organization the world needs – an organization that delivers results for the people we serve.

Next week, Germany will assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union. This is a critical period for Europe, for the world and for WHO. Now more than ever, the world needs leadership. Now, more than ever, the world needs international cooperation. Once again, I offer my profound thanks to France and Germany for your leadership and support.

On the 10th Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared over; vigilance against flare-ups and support for survivors must continue

Today marks the end of the 10th outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This long, complex and difficult outbreak has been overcome due to the leadership and commitment of the Government of the DRC, supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), a multitude of partners, donors, and above all, the efforts of the communities affected by the virus.

WHO congratulates all those involved in the arduous and often dangerous work required to end the outbreak, but stresses the need for vigilance. Continuing to support survivors and maintaining strong surveillance and response systems in order to contain potential flare-ups is critical in the months to come. “The outbreak took so much from all of us, especially from the people of DRC, but we came out of it with valuable lessons and valuable tools.

The world is now better-equipped to respond to Ebola. A vaccine has been licensed, and effective treatments identified,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We should celebrate this moment, but we must resist complacency. Viruses do not take breaks. Ultimately, the best defence against any outbreak is investing in a stronger health system as the foundation for universal health coverage.”

The outbreak, declared in North Kivu on 1 August 2018, was the second-largest in the world and was particularly challenging as it took place an active conflict zone. There were 3470 cases, 2287 deaths and 1171 survivors.  Led by the DRC Government and the Ministry of Health and supported by WHO and partners, the more than 22-month-long response involved training thousands of health workers, registering 250 000 contacts, testing 220 000 samples, providing patients with equitable access to advanced therapeutics, vaccinating over 303 000 people with the highly effective rVSV-ZEBOV-GP vaccine, and offering care for all survivors after their recovery.

The response was bolstered by the engagement and leadership of the affected communities. Thanks to their efforts, this outbreak did not spread globally. More than 16 000 local frontline responders worked alongside the more than 1500 people deployed by WHO. Support from donors was essential, as was the work of UN partner agencies, national and international NGOs, research networks, and partners deployed through the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network. Hard work to build up preparedness capacities in neighbouring countries also limited the risk of the outbreak expanding.

Work will continue to build on the gains made in this response to address other health challenges, including measles and COVID-19. “During the almost two years we fought the Ebola virus, WHO and partners helped strengthen the capacity of local health authorities to manage outbreaks,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “The DRC is now better, smarter and faster at responding to Ebola and this is an enduring legacy which is supporting the response to COVID-19 and other outbreaks.”

As countries around the world face the COVID-19 pandemic, the DRC Ebola response provides valuable lessons. Many of the public health measures that have been successful in stopping Ebola are the same measures that are now essential for stopping COVID-19: finding, isolating, testing, and caring for every case and relentless contact tracing.

In DRC, community workers were provided with training and a smartphone data collection app  that enabled them to track contacts and report in real-time rather than fill in laborious paper reports. Even when violence locked down cities, the community workers, many of them local women, continued to track and trace contacts using the application, something that was crucial for ending this outbreak.

While this 10th outbreak in DRC has ended, the fight against Ebola continues. On 1 June 2020, seven cases of Ebola were reported in Mbandaka city and neighbouring Bikoro Health Zone in Equateur Province and an 11th outbreak was declared.  WHO is supporting the government-led response with more than 50 staff already deployed and more than 5000 vaccinations already administered.

WHO salutes the thousands of heroic responders who fought one of the world’s most dangerous viruses in one of the world’s most unstable regions. Some health workers, including WHO experts, paid the ultimate price and sacrificed their lives to the Ebola response.