Category Archives: WHO

WHO calls for moratorium on COVID vaccine booster jabs

Just more than 1.8 percent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, compared with nearly 50 percent in the EU and US [File: Leo Correa/AP Photo]
Just more than 1.8 percent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, compared with nearly 50 percent in the EU and US [File: Leo Correa/AP Photo]

The World Health Organization is calling for a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine boosters until at least the end of September to enable at least 10 percent of the population of every country in the world to be vaccinated.

“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing.

He added that G-20 nations had an important leadership role to play as those countries were the “biggest producers, the biggest consumers and the biggest donors of COVID-19 vaccines”.

The WHO’s plea comes as the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant prompts discussions about boosters in wealthier countries, including the United States, Britain and Germany, even as a new wave of COVID-19 causes havoc in countries that have been unable to give people even a single jab.

The US on Wednesday rejected the UN health agency’s call for a delay saying it was a “false choice” and that it was possible to do both.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, noted that the US had donated more than 110 million doses of vaccines around the world.

“That is more than any other country has shared combined,” she said. “We also, in this country, have enough supply, to ensure that every American has access to a vaccine. We will have enough supply to ensure, if the FDA decides that boosters are recommended for a portion of the population, to provide those as well.”

“We definitely feel that it’s a false choice and we can do both,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday, adding the country had sufficient supply to continue distributing shots abroad while also ensuring that every American can be fully vaccinated.

Last week, Israeli President Isaac Herzog received a third shot of the coronavirus vaccine, kicking off a campaign to give booster doses to over 60s, while Germany will start booster shots next month.

“We need to focus on those people who are most vulnerable, most at risk of severe disease and death, to get their first and second doses,”  WHO’s Katherine O’Brien told reporters.

Vaccine inequity

The WHO has repeatedly called for rich countries to do more to help improve access to vaccines in the developing world, given the gap in global vaccine distribution.

A little more than 1.8 percent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, compared with nearly 50 percent in both the EU and the US, according to Our World in Data.

Some 101 doses per 100 people have been given in countries categorised as high income by the World Bank, with the 100-doses mark surpassed this week.

That figure drops to 1.7 doses per 100 people in the 29 lowest-income countries.

The UN health agency argues that no one is safe until everyone is safe because the longer and more widely the coronavirus circulates, the greater the chance that new variants could emerge – and prolong a global crisis in fighting the pandemic.

Dr Bruce Aylward, a special adviser to Tedros, said the moratorium was about an appeal to countries considering booster doses to “put a hold” on such policies “until and unless we get the rest of the world caught up” in the fight against the pandemic.

”As we’ve seen from the emergence of variant after variant, we cannot get out of it unless the whole world gets out of it together. And with the huge disparity in vaccination coverage, we’re simply not going to be able to achieve that,” Aylward said.

Unequal distribution has been at the centre of debate for months at the World Trade Organization as developing countries, headed by India and South Africa, call for the temporary removal of intellectual property (IP) rights on vaccines to boost global manufacturing capacity.

The WHO has no power to require countries to act on its recommendations, and many in the past have ignored its appeals on issues like donating vaccines, limiting cross-border travel and taking steps to boost production of vaccines in developing countries.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/8/4/who-moratorium-on-covid-vaccine-booster

‘Staggering’: WHO says 200,000 Palestinians in need of health aid

Palestinians sit in a makeshift tent amid the rubble of their houses on May 23, 2021 [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]
Palestinians sit in a makeshift tent amid the rubble of their houses on May 23, 2021 [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Officials from the United Nations and Red Cross have visited the besieged Gaza Strip to review the destruction from Israel’s 11-day bombardment, including damage to homes, schools, hospitals and other critical infrastructure.

Israeli attacks on the enclave that began on May 10 killed at least 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, according to health authorities in Gaza. At least 12 people, including two children, were killed in Israel by rocket attacks carried out by armed groups based in Gaza.

In a statement on Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of “staggering health needs” across the occupied Palestinian territory, saying the conflict sparked further population displacement and exacerbated a prolonged humanitarian crisis.

“Over 77,000 people were internally displaced and around 30 health facilities have been damaged,” it said.

The WHO said it was “scaling up its response to provide health aid for almost 200,000 people in need”, across the occupied Palestinian territory, including the occupied West Bank.

“The situation is volatile. WHO remains concerned … and calls for unhindered access for humanitarian and development-related essential supplies and staff into Gaza and referral of patients out of Gaza whenever needed,” WHO’s Rik Peeperkorn said.

Meanwhile, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) appealed for more than $16m to help the people in Gaza.

“Fear, anxiety and stress were the key words I heard repeatedly today,” ICRC head Robert Mardini told Al Jazeera after touring Gaza areas devastated by the Israeli bombardment.

“Even if the escalation was shorter than in previous situations, it will take years to rebuild what was damaged only in 11 days,” he said, calling for “a meaningful political solution to [end] this longstanding conflict”.

“In the meantime, we need to really step up our support in order to beef up the humanitarian response in the Gaza Strip in the short term.”

Protests after UN official’s comments

Meanwhile, the Gaza director of the UN agency that deals with Palestinian refugees has been called in for consultation with his bosses after angering Palestinians through saying he did not dispute Israel’s assertion that its air strikes were “precise”.

The comments by Matthias Schmale in an interview with Israel’s N12 television on May 22 have prompted Palestinian protests.

The recent Israeli attacks on Gaza destroyed 1,800 residential units and partially destroyed at least another 14,300, forcing tens of thousands of Palestinians to take shelter in UN-run schools.

The bombing also struck some 74 public buildings, including local municipalities, according to figures released by Gaza’s information ministry.

Israeli officials and Hamas officials have recently held separate permanent truce talks with Egyptian officials.

Israel enforced a land and sea blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized control in 2007 of the impoverished and densely populated territory that is home to about two million Palestinians.

Egypt’s heavily secured Rafah crossing is Gaza’s only passage to the outside world not controlled by Israel.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/6/2/who-says-nearly-200000-palestinians-in-need-health-of-health-aid

Revealed: 46m displaced people excluded from Covid jab programmes

Among those excluded are 5.6 million Colombians internally displaced by six decades of civil war
Among those excluded are 5.6 million Colombians internally displaced by six decades of civil war. Photograph: Raúl Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images

Tens of millions of asylum seekers, migrants, refugees and internally displaced people around the world have been excluded from national Covid-19 vaccination programmes, according to World Health Organization research seen by the Guardian.

The gaps mean that a scattered group numbering at least 46 million people, about the size of the population of Spain, may struggle to get vaccinated even if a global shortage of doses eases.

Among the excluded are 5.6 million people internally displaced by six decades of civil war in Colombia, hundreds of thousands of refugees in Kenya and Syria and nearly 5 million migrants in Ukraine.

India, Nigeria and Indonesia are among several large countries whose vaccination programmes exclude displaced people, according to the WHO’s review, which was conducted in March. Others, such as Pakistan, appear in the list but have since amended their plans to make them more inclusive.

International health groups have been considering the problem of excluded populations for months, and the groups behind the vaccine-sharing facility Covax approved the establishment in March of a channel of doses reserved as a source of last resort for the most vulnerable people in communities with no other pathway to a jab.

The channel, called the “humanitarian buffer”, will draw on 5% of the doses allocated to poor and lower-middle income countries through Covax, redirecting them toward the most vulnerable 20% in excluded communities, to be administered by NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières.

Covax has estimated a maximum of about 33 million people would be eligible for vaccines from the buffer, accounting for the most at risk within these groups – health workers, older people and those with risky co-morbidities. It is unclear when, if ever, others in these excluded communities will be vaccinated and from what source.

Humanitarian groups have said that even if all migrants, refugees and other vulnerable populations were included in national plans, there would still be between 60 and 80 million people living in rebel-held territories around the world who would be out of reach.

The WHO research illustrates the scale of the gaps within government schemes. More than 70% of the 104 vaccination plans reviewed excluded migrants, leaving out more than 30 million around the world, including 4.9 million people in India and 2.6 million in the Ivory Coast.

Nor did the majority of plans studied include refugees and asylum seekers, stranding nearly 5 million people without a shot, including 1.8 million in Colombia, 590,000 in Syria and 489,000 in Kenya.

About 11.8 million internally displaced people were also omitted from most plans, leaving out 2.7 million Nigerians and more than a million Indians, according to the research.

Public health experts have argued that exclusionary vaccine plans are ultimately self-defeating, leaving large pockets of the population unprotected and still able to contract and transmit the virus, including variants that may have the potential to evade the immunity granted by vaccines.

“As we learned from the outset of Covid-19 and all the restrictions put in place, availability of testing and access to healthcare for coronavirus, no one is safe until everyone is safe, and that is absolutely the same for vaccination programmes,” said Nadia Hardman, a researcher in refugee and migrant rights at Human Rights Watch.

“What we’re seeing in India now, and what we saw in the UK, is the development of variants which rely and depend on a community not being immune, and the extent to which vaccinations are rolled out to all in a territory is critical for the containment of the virus and containment of threatening variants.”

Vaccine distribution tends to illuminate a state’s blind spots, and even some governments that putatively included refugees in their plans were doing too little to make sure they were actually vaccinated, Hardman said.

She gave the example of Lebanon, which has included the 1.5 million refugees who make up a third of its population in its national plan, “but what we’ve seen is extremely low take-up rates and an unwillingness by authorities to put forward the kinds of promises and assurances and mechanisms to get refugees and vulnerable groups to vaccination centres”, she said.

Countries can also apply to access Covax’s humanitarian buffer in extraordinary circumstances, such as the inflow of a large population of refugees.

There is also a separate “contingency provision”, drawing from the same emergency stockpile, which allows countries to apply for an immediate surge of extra doses through Covax in case of an extraordinary outbreak, potentially such as that which India has experienced over past weeks.

A spokesperson for the WHO did not comment on how many of countries named in the research had subsequently addressed the gaps in their vaccination programmes, but said: “Experience shows that despite best efforts, at-risk populations in humanitarian settings are often left behind and are at risk of being missed by government-led vaccination activities.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/07/at-least-46m-displaced-people-excluded-from-covid-jabs-who-study-shows

Top Global Scientists Call for ‘Profound Food System Transformation’ to Combat Extreme Malnutrition

malutrition
A new multi-paper World Health Organization report published Monday in The Lancet details the need to overhaul global food systems to address mass malnutrition. (Photo: Bartosz Hadyniak/Getty Images)

A multi-part World Health Organization report published Monday in the British medical journal The Lancet detailed the need to urgently transform the world’s failing food systems to combat the coexistence of undernourishment and obesity—or the “double burden of malnutrition.”

Based on global data from recent decades, the WHO report estimated that more than 150 million children are stunted worldwide while nearly 2.3 billion children and adults—about 30% of the planet’s human population—are overweight.

Dr. Francesco Branca, the report’s lead author and director of the WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, said that “we can no longer characterize countries as low-income and undernourished, or high-income and only concerned with obesity.”

As he put it: “We are facing a new nutrition reality.”

This new reality “is driven by changes to the food system, which have increased availability of ultra-processed foods that are linked to increased weight gain, while also adversely affecting infant and pre-schooler diets,” said co-author and University of North Carolina professor Barry Popkin. “These changes include disappearing fresh food markets, increasing supermarkets, and the control of the food chain by supermarkets, and global food, catering and agriculture companies in many countries.”

Considering these changes, Branca explained that “all forms of malnutrition have a common denominator—food systems that fail to provide all people with healthy, safe, affordable, and sustainable diets.”

“Changing this will require action across food systems—from production and processing, through trade and distribution, pricing, marketing, and labeling, to consumption and waste,” he added. “All relevant policies and investments must be radically re-examined.”

This is especially true for the more than a third of low- and middle-income countries that face “the two extremes of malnutrition.” A WHO statement highlighted the following regions: sub-Saharan Africa, south and east Asia, and the Pacific.

Authors of the WHO report urged world governments, the United Nations, civil society, academics, the media, donors, the private sector, and economic platforms to pursue fundamental changes to global food systems with the aim of ending mass malnutrition. Doing so, according to the authors, means seeking assistance from grassroots groups, farmers and their unions, faith-based leaders, advocates for planetary health, leaders of green companies, local politicians, and consumer associations.

“Given the political economy of food, the commodification of food systems, and growing patterns of inequality worldwide, the new nutrition reality calls for a broadened community of actors who work in mutually reinforcing and interconnected ways on a global scale,” said Branca. “Without a profound food system transformation, the economic, social, and environmental costs of inaction will hinder the growth and development of individuals and societies for decades to come.”

The report acknowledged that fighting malnutrition requires successfully promoting healthier diets, which WHO defines as: optimal breastfeeding practices in the first two years; a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fiber, nuts, and seeds; and limited amounts of animal products—particularly processed meats—as well as foods and beverages high in sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, and salt.

“Today’s publication of the WHO Series on the Double Burden of Malnutrition comes after 12 months of Lancet articles exploring nutrition in all its forms,” wrote The Lancet editor-in-chief Dr. Richard Horton in an editorial accompanying the report.

“With these and other articles across Lancet journals throughout 2019, it has become clear that nutrition and malnutrition need to be approached from multiple perspectives,” Horton continued, “and although findings have sometimes converged, there is still work to be done to understand malnutrition’s multiple manifestations.”

In January, as Common Dreams reported, more than three dozen experts with the EAT-Lancet Commission called for a “global agricultural revolution” and people worldwide to adopt a “planetary health diet” to tackle the harmful nutritional and environmental impacts of the world’s unhealthy, unsustainable food system.

Co-lead commissioner Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University explained at the time that “to be healthy, diets must have an appropriate calorie intake and consist of a variety of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal-based foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and few refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/12/16/top-global-scientists-call-profound-food-system-transformation-combat-extreme

Ebola outbreak in DRC an international health emergency, WHO declares

474C092B-EDD4-44B3-B5F9-90D97F07EB73A man receives an Ebola vaccine in Goma, DCR on July 15, 2019. Credit: Pamela Tulizo / AFP / Getty Images

.- The nearly year-long Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has reached the level of an international health emergency, the World Health Organization declared yesterday.

The declaration, which critics say is long overdue, could bring greater resources to the region, where violence and skepticism of international medical personnel have hampered treatment and prevention efforts.

Officials made the international health emergency designation – for only the fifth time in history – after a priest died from Ebola in Goma, a city of some 2 million residents, which serves as a major crossroads on the border with Rwanda.

Risk of the virus being transmitted to neighboring countries is “very high,” WHO officials said, although outside of the immediate region, risk remains low.

For months, public health experts have feared that the deadly virus in DRC could spread to surrounding countries. Two Ebola fatalities were confirmed in Uganda last month, after the victims returned from a funeral in DRC. Kenya and Rwanda have also been on high alert for signs that the virus may have entered the country.

The Ebola outbreak began in the DRC in August 2018. Since then, it has infected more than 2,500 people in the country and killed more than 1,600, making it the second largest outbreak in history.

Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, voiced hope that the emergency declaration would prompt a unified international response.

”The reality check is that a year into the epidemic, it’s still not under control, and we are not where we should be,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results.”

The Associated Press reported that internal WHO documents showed a reluctance to make the emergency declaration over concerns about whether it might prompt border closures that could negatively affect economic and health care efforts, and deter countries from reporting outbreaks in the future.

The DRC health department displayed skepticism over the emergency declaration, suggesting that it may have been made as a fundraising move, while some residents of eastern Congo voiced fear that neighboring countries would close their borders, which provide trade routes that are vital to DRC’s economy, the Associated Press reported.

The WHO will reassess the situation in three months to determine whether an international health emergency still exists. Such an emergency is defined as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”

Efforts to contain the disease have been hampered by misinformation and distrust on the part of local communities, who in some cases have retaliated against health teams by attacking them. Nearly 200 attacks on medical centers and staff have been reported this year, according to the BBC. This has limited many of the health services that non-governmental organizations are able to provide.

Catholic Relief Services has been supporting local Caritas partners in responding through education campaigns to help residents know how to prevent and respond to the virus.

More than 160,000 people have received the Ebola vaccine, which is 99% effective, according to the BBC, but many more are fearful of it and refuse to receive it. In addition, violence in the eastern part of the DRC has made it difficult to reach some areas of the country, and difficult to monitor the virus as it spreads.

Ebola is a deadly virus that is primarily spread through contact with bodily fluids. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pains and occasional bleeding. The disease is fatal in up to 90 percent of cases.

Several outbreaks have taken place in Africa in recent decades. An outbreak in 2014-2016 in West Africa killed more than 11,000 people and spread briefly to Spain, the United States and the UK.

During that outbreak, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas worked to treat those who were infected, support Ebola orphans, provide food support and educate people on hygiene practices to help avoid the spread of the virus, such as hand washing and avoiding contact with dead bodies.

Suzanne Van Hulle, a Catholic Relief Services team member who worked on the agency’s response to the West Africa outbreak, stressed the importance of education in fighting Ebola.

“During an Ebola outbreak, information and understanding people’s perception about the virus is just as important as medicine or a vaccine,” she said in a statement last month.

“Local community leaders play a critical role in educating people around Ebola and how to prevent both acquiring the virus and ongoing transmission.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/ebola-outbreak-in-drc-an-international-health-emergency-who-declares-26141