Opening remarks by the Director-General of WHO at the fourth meeting of the IHR Emergency Committee on the multi-country monkeypox outbreak – 9 February 2023

February 9, 2023


Dr. Alda Maria da Cruz,


Dear members and advisors of the Emergency Committee, colleagues and friends:


I want to thank our President and Vice President for joining us in Geneva, and all of you for joining us from around the world.


It is very gratifying to see how, thanks to the hard work of the affected countries, monkeypox cases have decreased since I declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern last July.


The number of reported monkeypox cases has continued to fall to low levels in all regions since your last meeting, suggesting a sustained decline.


The number of monkeypox cases reported to WHO now stands at more than 85,000, and the number of deaths at 92.


Since November, 90% of cases have been reported in the Region of the Americas.


The WHO, however, continues to receive reports from around the world, with more than 30 countries reporting cases in the past month.


It is important to note that it is difficult to trace the true trajectory of the epidemic in the African Region, given the limited data available to WHO. Data sharing remains essential for all countries.


That being said, the slowdown in the number of reported cases shows the effectiveness of response measures globally.


Regardless of your opinion about whether or not the outbreak continues to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, ending it will continue to require intense effort. If we don’t stop human-to-human transmission, we could see a rebound in cases.


And, of course, we must remember that monkeypox has been endemic in many low-income countries in Africa for years.


Although it is receding in countries that have not experienced major outbreaks in the past, this global outbreak should spur more sustained investment in fighting this disease everywhere.


In the future, we must maintain efforts in terms of surveillance, prevention and care, and for the vaccination of high-risk populations,


as well as efforts to improve equitable access to diagnostic tests, vaccines and treatment for all who need them,


and to continue fighting against stigmatization and discrimination, guaranteeing respect for human rights.


In the longer term, programs and services related to monkeypox should be integrated into surveillance and control programs for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.


In a few moments, my colleagues will provide updated technical information on the current epidemiological situation.


Once again, thank you, Dr. Okwo-Bele, for your leadership.


And I also express my gratitude to each of the members and advisors of the Committee for sharing their expertise, and for their dedication and commitment.


As always, the International Sanitary Regulations will guide your work.


I wish you a productive discussion and look forward to your recommendations.





Source: World Health Organization

COVID Treatment Shows Encouraging Results in Trial, Study Says

A single-injection antiviral treatment for newly infected COVID-19 patients reduced the risk of hospitalization by half in a large-scale clinical trial, a study published Wednesday said.


Stanford University professor Jeffrey Glenn, co-author of the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, said the new drug “showed profound benefits for vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike.”


While the number of Americans dying daily of the disease caused by a coronavirus has fallen to about 500, treatments for COVID-19 remain limited. One of the most common — Paxlovid, made by Pfizer — involves taking 30 pills over five days.


The new treatment involves a single dose of pegylated interferon lambda, a synthetic version of a naturally occurring protein that infected cells secrete to defend against viral infection.


“What it does is it binds receptors on the surfaces of cells that activate our own antiviral defense mechanisms,” said Glenn, a professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology who heads the Stanford Biosecurity and Pandemic Preparedness Initiative.


“So if a virus has infected the cell, it will turn on processes that aim to destroy the virus’s replication,” he said. “It will also send signals to neighboring cells to warn them viruses are on their way and get ready to defend yourself.”


Receptors for interferon lambda are primarily in the linings of the lungs, airways and intestine — the main places COVID-19 strikes.


“We’re turning on these antiviral mechanisms in the cells, the lung, where the infection is happening,” Glenn said.


The phase three trial of the drug, conducted from June 2021 to February 2022, involved nearly 2,000 patients with COVID symptoms in Brazil and Canada, about 85 percent of whom had been vaccinated.


A total of 931 newly infected COVID patients were given a single injection of interferon lambda, while 1,018 participants were given a placebo.


The risk of COVID-19–related hospitalization or death from any cause was 47 percent lower in the interferon group than in the placebo group, according to the researchers.


Twenty-five of the 931 people who received the injection within seven days of exhibiting COVID symptoms were hospitalized, compared with 57 of the 1,018 who received the placebo.


Vaccinated patients treated with interferon lambda experienced a 51 percent reduction in hospitalization relative to the placebo group.


There was an 89 percent reduction in hospitalization among unvaccinated patients treated within the first three days of the onset of COVID symptoms compared with the placebo group.


Developed for hepatitis D


Glenn said interferon lambda proved effective against all COVID variants tested, including omicron, and side effects in the group receiving the injections were no greater than among the placebo recipients.


Glenn is the founder of a small biotechnology company called Eiger Biopharmaceuticals that acquired interferon lambda to develop drugs for the hepatitis delta virus.


“When COVID came, I said this would be the perfect drug for COVID,” said Glenn, who left the Palo Alto company but remains on the board of directors and is an equity holder.


Eiger sought an emergency use authorization for interferon lambda from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for COVID treatment last year, but it was not granted.


That was “very frustrating,” Glenn said, though he was hopeful that publication of the study in the New England Journal of Medicine “will help encourage regulators here and around the world to find a way to get lambda into patients as soon as possible.”


Source: Voice of America

WHO launches new roadmap on breast cancer

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new Global Breast Cancer Initiative Framework providing a roadmap to attain the targets to save 2.5 million lives from breast cancer by 2040.


The new Framework launched ahead of the World Cancer Day campaign marked Saturday, recommends to countries implement the three pillars of health promotion for early detection, timely diagnosis and comprehensive management of breast cancer to reach the targets.


There are more than 2.3 million cases of breast cancer that occur each year, which make it the most common cancer among adults.


In 95% of countries, breast cancer is the first or second leading cause of female cancer deaths.


Yet, survival from breast cancer is widely inequitable between and within countries; nearly 80% of deaths from breast and cervical cancer occur in low- and middle-income countries.


“Countries with weaker health systems are least able to manage the increasing burden of breast cancer. It places a tremendous strain on individuals, families, communities, health systems, and economies, so it must be a priority for ministries of health and governments everywhere,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.


“We have the tools and the know-how to prevent breast cancer and save lives. WHO is supporting more than 70 countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, to detect breast cancer earlier, diagnose it faster, treat it better and give everyone with breast cancer the hope of a cancer-free future.”


Cancer in women, including breast cancer, leave a devastating impact on the next generation.


A 2020 study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer suggests that with an estimated 4.4 million women dying of cancer in 2020, nearly 1 million children were orphaned by cancer, 25% of which were due to breast cancer.


Children who lose their mothers to cancer experience health and educational disadvantages throughout their lives, triggering generational, chronic social disruption and financial harm in many cases.


“Countries need to ensure that this framework engages and integrates into primary health care. This effort would not only support health promotion but also empower women to seek and receive health care throughout the life cycle,” says Dr Bente Mikkelsen, WHO Director for Noncommunicable Diseases.


“With effective and sustainable primary health care, we can really see a pathway to universal health coverage.”


The newly published framework leverages proven strategies to design country-specific, resource-appropriate, health systems for the delivery of breast-cancer care in low- and middle-income settings.


It outlines three pillars of action with specific key performance indicators:  Recommending countries focus on breast cancer early-detection programmes so that at least 60% of breast cancers are diagnosed and treated as an early-stage disease. Diagnosing breast cancer within 60 days of the initial presentation can improve breast cancer outcomes. Treatment should start within three months of the first presentation. Managing breast cancer so that at least 80% of patients complete their recommended treatment.


Accelerating the implementation of WHO’s Global Breast Cancer Initiative has the potential to avert not only millions of avoidable female cancer deaths but also the associated, intergenerational consequences of these deaths.


In 2017, the World Health Assembly passed the Resolution of Cancer prevention and control in the context of an integrated approach.


Since 2018, WHO has developed integrated initiatives in women’s and children’s cancers, calling also for the elimination of cervical cancer and a doubling of childhood cancer survival.


Taken together, these initiatives can revert the generational harm from cancers and save more than a million lives in the next ten years.


WHO calls on governments, development partners, industries and individuals to take their part to close the care gap and end the generational harms of cancer.




Weekly Bulletin on Outbreaks and other Emergencies: Week 5: 23 to 29 January 2023


This Weekly Bulletin focuses on public health emergencies occurring in the WHO African region. This week’s articles cover:

  • Cholera in Mozambique
  • Cholera in Burundi
  • COVID-19 across the WHO African region

For each of these events, a brief description, followed by public health measures implemented and an interpretation of the situation is provided.

A table is provided at the end of the bulletin with information on all new and ongoing public health events currently being monitored in the region, as well as recent events that have been controlled and closed.

Major issues and challenges include:

The cholera outbreak which was reported in Mozambique on 14 September 2022 continues with an increase in the number of districts affected. The geographic spread of the outbreak is straining response capacity, including human resources, and medical supplies. Inadequate access to safe water sources for a population already facing hygiene and sanitation challenges, the current rainy season, and a large fishing community could contribute to sustained disease transmission. In addition, Malawi, which borders Mozambique, is currently experiencing an uncontrolled national cholera outbreak with a high case fatality rate (>3%). The observed population movement from Mozambique to neighbouring countries and vice versa, poses a high risk of sub-regional transmission.

The number of COVID-19 cases reported in the first three weeks of 2023 was the lowest record in the same period comparing the past three years. However, in the three weeks, there has been an increasing number of countries with an uptick in the number of cases and deaths in the WHO African region, with South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho and Zimbabwe of particular note.

Hospitalizations and ICU admission rates have however remained low across the region. Recent surges in China and the USA have once again highlighted the possibility of a rapid deterioration of the pandemic situation as the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to evolve globally, particularly with the circulation of the highly transmissible XBB 1.5 and BQ.1.1 subvariants



Source: World Health Organization

WHO calls for funding to help record numbers of people in complex, interconnected health emergencies

The WHO launches its Health Emergency Appeal for 2023 , estimated at US$ 2.54 billion, with the aim of assisting millions of people around the world who are facing one or another health emergency. The number of people in need of humanitarian relief has increased by almost 25% compared to 2022, reaching a record 339 million.


WHO is currently responding to an unprecedented number of interconnected health emergencies: climate change-related disasters such as the floods in Pakistan or food insecurity in the Sahel and Horn of Africa region; the war in Ukraine, and the health consequences of the conflicts raging in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and northern Ethiopia, all of which are emergencies combined with the disruption of health systems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and with outbreaks of measles, cholera and other deadly diseases.


“This unprecedented confluence of crises demands an unprecedented response,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Never before have so many people been exposed to imminent risk of disease and starvation. They all need help now. The world cannot look the other way and expect these crises to resolve themselves. I urge donors to be generous and help WHO save lives, prevent the spread of disease, within and across borders, and support communities as they rebuild.”


Right now, the WHO is acting in the face of 54 health crises around the world, 11 of them classified as “grade 3”, the highest emergency level of the WHO, which requires a response from the three levels of the Organization. As is often the case, the people hit the hardest are the most vulnerable.


In 2022, WHO provided medicines and other supplies, trained doctors and other health workers, distributed vaccines, enabled more effective disease surveillance, procured mobile clinics, and supported mental health care and maternal health consultations, among many other activities. WHO offers cost-effective and highly responsive responses that protect people’s health, lives and livelihoods. Every dollar invested in WHO brings a return of at least $35.*


WHO responds to health emergencies in close collaboration with Member States, other United Nations agencies, nongovernmental organizations, civil society entities and other partners at the community level and across countries and regions.


The appeal will be launched at an event at WHO headquarters, Geneva, organized by WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. It will be webcast from this page: , and also on the YouTube channel from WHO, Twitter and LinkedIn.



Source: World Health Organization

WHO: Scope, Scale of Health Emergencies Growing


World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns global health challenges are growing and threatening the well-being of millions of people worldwide. He spoke at the opening of WHO’s week-long executive board meeting.


The WHO chief began his presentation on a somber note. He told meeting participants that an emergency committee convened to assess the status of the pandemic has concluded that COVID-19 remains a global health emergency.


He said the situation is much better now than a year ago when the omicron variant of the coronavirus was at its peak. But, he added, weekly reported deaths have been rising since early December. He said more than 170,000 people have lost their lives to COVID-19 in the past eight weeks.


“And that is just the reported deaths. We know the actual number is much higher. We cannot control the virus, but we can do more to address the vulnerabilities in populations and health systems.”


Tedros said health providers have the knowledge and means to control the spread of other diseases as well. He outlined an ambitious program for promoting health and protecting people from diseases. These, as well as other proposals for how the world can better prepare and respond to future health emergencies will be under discussion by member countries this week.


Tedros said progress has been made over the past year in promoting health, by addressing the root causes of disease. He called this action essential in achieving a target set by WHO of seeing one billion more people enjoying better health and well-being.


“On trans-fat, we have seen an almost five-fold increase in the number of people protected by WHO-recommended policies on the use of industrially produced trans-fat, from 550 million people to 2.6 billion, in just four years. But as you know, still five billion are unprotected.”


Last year, he said, WHO reached the target it set to support 100 million tobacco users in stopping smoking. He noted, however, this left an estimated 600 million users who want to kick the habit and need support.


Tedros presented numerous examples of key health achievements in both communicable and non-communicable diseases. He also acknowledged setbacks in many of these same areas, indicating the necessity of remaining alert and responding rapidly to health emergencies whenever and wherever they may arise.



Source: Voice of America