Global leaders gather for a virtual session of the 75th United Nations General Assembly this month, and as proceedings got underway, the World Health Organization (WHO) took the opportunity to push for three actions it deems key to the collective future.
Foremost among these concerns a weight on everyone’s mind this year: COVID-19. With the pandemic now responsible for nearly 30 million cases worldwide and closing in on 1 million affiliated deaths, the WHO asked world leaders to support the international collaborative effort known as the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which pools investments to provide a chance for all countries to get tools to gain COVID-19 tools access — and more of them — more quickly. That program needs $35 billion to fast-track development, procurement and distribution of 2 billion vaccine doses, 245 million treatments, and 500 million tests over the next year, though.
Pivoting from equitable access, the organization also called for maintenance of sustainable development goals, lest COVID-19 unravel decades of work among health services. WHO noted that 90 percent of countries are currently experiencing disruptions to essential health services due to the pandemic, from immunizations to contraception, highlighting the need for stronger health and data systems in a drive toward universal health coverage.
Lastly, the WHO asked nations to band together not just to act against this pandemic, but to prepare for the next one. It looked at COVID-19 as a teachable moment — one that has shown the dangers of being unprepared, even in the face of early warnings. The world knew pandemics were a threat but did little to prepare, and it has now seen the cost.
WHO noted that earlier this week, a Global Preparedness Monitoring Board report titled “World in disorder” showcased these burdens, and urged multilateralism and collaboration with the WHO going forward. WHO intends to echo these calls throughout the General Assembly, and to press for responsible leadership, engaged citizenship, strong and agile systems of health security, sustained investment, and global management of preparedness efforts.